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Abuse of Peruvian indigenous peoples results in social crisis

by Breonnah Colón - Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Apr 24th 2018 11:00 pm
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Peru is home to a plethora of different customs, traditions and people. It is one of the few countries where its indigenous peoples still exist and practice their traditional way of life, despite becoming increasingly oppressed as times goes on. Commonly known for its beautiful and mysterious ruins, such as the famous city of Machu Picchu, Peru tends to be a Latin American country that flies under the radar for most of the world. That was until very recently.

The country has always had a complex relationship with its indigenous peoples. For almost a decade now, Peru has made headlines across the world for its attempt at modernizing its economy through the use of what many would consider the exploitation of its natural resources, namely the Amazon Rainforest. Spanning across eight different countries, the Amazon serves as a home for a wide variety of plants, animals and natural resources like oil. Its ecosystem is so vast and integral to the global landscape that one in 10 species of all living organisms lives within the forest, according to worldwildlife.org. To date, the forest serves as a habitat for approximately forty thousand plant species, 3,000 freshwater species and more than 350 different species of reptiles. 

The Amazon rainforest is so large, it makes up roughly half of the world’s existing tropical forests. Needless to say, negatively impacting the forest could have a devastating effect on thousands of different species. However, the Amazon is home to more than natural life — it also serves as a home for different indigenous tribes. In fact, roughly one million indigenous peoples live within the forest, broken up into around 400 different tribes, according to survivalinternational.org. These tribes are now being kicked out and in certain cases, even brutalized for their way of life, all in the interest of money.

In order to protect their way of life, Peru has been pushed to enforce law that would serve to maintain the culture of its indigenous population — a call which has remained unanswered for some time. These political tensions have spilled over to create a form of social turmoil. The results of that boiling point have reached all corners of the world this week as headlines read about a Canadian man killed for the alleged murder of a native medicine woman. 

The Guardian explained that a cell phone video showed Canadian citizen Sebastian Woodroffe beaten, and then ultimately strangled to death in the middle of a town as its inhabitants looked on. While this sort of punishment may be shocking to us here in the United States, such practices are common in more rural parts of Peru. The presence of police is much less apparent than the rest of the country, leaving villagers to handle cases according to local customs. 

Woodroffe was accused of killing a local medicine woman, Olivia Arevalo. Arevalo was was shot twice by her home near the Amazon where she soon died, prompting outrage across the country. The reason why locals came to the conclusion that Woodroffe killed Arevalo remains unknown; however, it wouldn’t be out of the question to think that he was accused merely for being an outsider. 

Currently, Peruvian authorities have two homicide cases to handle with little to no evidence about who carried them out. Reuters.com explained that  Ricardo Palma Jimenez, head of authorities looking into the case in the area, has vowed to find the suspects of both cases.

Learning of such devastation in other countries may seem like we are detached, but such circumstances aren’t exactly unheard of in our own country. As far away as these issues may seem, they’re actually taking place in our own nation. With political, racial and social tensions at its breaking point right on our own soil, we may learn a lot simply by paying attention to what’s going on in the other America. 

 

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