2824 - Clashing Concepts of the ¿Good Life¿: Knowledge, Vision, and Beauty versus National Wealth in Amazonian Ecuador

In the 2008 Constitution (Carta Magna) of Ecuador, in which indigenous people of Amazonia had strong and effective voices, ninety-nine of four hundred and forty-four articles contain the Quichua phrase Sumak Kausai and the Spanish phrase Buen Vivir. Native “directors” of Amazonian organizations and politicians in the party of the president of the republic, Rafael Correa, used the two phrases as ideological synonyms. Each time one is mentioned the other is placed right next to it in all texts. In reality, the two do not carry the same meanings. The former, in Canelos Quichua of Amazonia, means something like “beautiful life force,” incorporating such concepts as deep knowledge, especially as revealed in male shamanic performance and in the strong visionary creativity of female master potters. Among the Canelos Quichua, concepts of community, conviviality, kinship, integration with nature, and a shunning of capitalist wealth accumulation are all subsumed under the rubric of Sumak Kausai. By contrast, the basic meanings of Buen Vivir, “living well,” used literally as the “good life,” are based on capitalist wealth accumulation, albeit for a common good. The national strategy for obtaining a good life for all citizens of the republic is bound to the production of wealth through exploitation of gold and copper through mining, and increased petroleum production. This paper explicates and explores the ramifications of the Amazonian perspective together with the way by which a seeming synonym is currently the root ideological trope for escalating misunderstanding and open conflict between indigenous peoples and the executive-led strategies, policies and practices of “national development” through accumulated capitalist wealth within a framework of “twenty-first century socialism.” (269 wor

Keywords: Sumak Kausai, Buen Vivir, Good Life, Ecuador, Kichwa

Author: Whitten, Norman (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Ud States of Am / USA)


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