All or most legal discrimination against the Indians and other ethnic sectors of the population was nominally abolished either at the time when the individual countries became independent or during the 19th century. The real conditions of the Indians (and to a certain extent of the Africans after the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888), however, remained the same or became worse, since, on one hand, liberal legislation tended to eliminate all communal property and the legal existence of the Indian communities, while, on the other, various forms of exploitation continued unchanged. These de facto conditions also were reinforced by the 19th-century racist pseudoscientific doctrines of white supremacy. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, however, a partial change in intellectual attitudes and political conditions has resulted in initiatives toward improving the conditions of these groups. In Brazil, for example, institutions such as the Protective Service for the Indians (Serviço de Proteção do Indio) and the National Indian Foundation (Fundação Nacional do Indio) were established, although such organizations often have become agents for the relocation and control of Indian groups rather than for their interests and survival. Christian missionaries sometimes have acted as representatives of Indian rights.
Indians of the Andean highlands have benefited from land reforms enacted since 1950 in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, although these reforms often have defined rural peoples as “peasants” rather than as Indians. Such groups as the Aguaruna and the Shipibo in eastern Peru have been able to take advantage of programs by which some Indians actually have become the landlords of mestizos. National parks and protected areas have been established for such peoples as the Yanomamo of Brazil and Venezuela and the Huaorani of Ecuador.
Large-scale Indian-rights movements have appeared in the highlands, which have attempted to link different Quechua-speaking groups into broader unions in order to obtain land and political recognition; often these movements have claimed that Indian groups constitute nations in their own right.
Lowland Indians also have organized—as in the Kayapó of Brazil and the Shuar of Ecuador—and larger, pan-Indian movements have emerged that have striven to unite disparate groups at the national and international level. Coupled with the rise of these movements has been a growing interest in Indian languages, technology, music, and medicine and an effort to use indigenous knowledge to provide appropriate economic development and help conserve the South American landscape. "South America" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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