Juan Gregorio Palechor

The Story of My Life

Juan Gregorio Palechor

Narrating Native Histories

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Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: 30 photographs, 1 map, 1 figure Published: March 2014

Author: Myriam Jimeno

Translator: Andy Klatt

Contributor: Joanne Rappaport

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies > Andes, Native and Indigenous Studies

The Colombian activist Juan Gregorio Palechor (1923–1992) dedicated his life to championing indigenous rights in Cauca, a department in the southwest of Colombia, where he helped found the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca. Recounting his life story in collaboration with the Colombian anthropologist Myriam Jimeno, Palechor traces his political awakening, his experiences in national politics, the disillusionment that resulted, and his turn to a more radical activism aimed at confronting ethnic discrimination and fighting for indigenous territorial and political sovereignty.

Palechor's lively memoir is complemented by Jimeno's reflections on autobiography as an anthropological tool and on the oppressive social and political conditions faced by Colombia's indigenous peoples. A faithful and fluent transcription of Palechor's life story, this work is a uniquely valuable resource for understanding the contemporary indigenous rights movements in Colombia.


"[A] thought-provoking book that attempts to address the concerns of the researcher and subject when creating a biographical narrative. A welcome addition to the field of anthropology and the study of indigenous movement in Colombia."  — A. E. Leykam, Choice

"Anthropologist Myriam Jimeno’s presentation of the life history of Colombian Indigenous activist Juan Gregorio Palechor is an excellent contribution to our understanding of how narratives are constructed and publicly expressed.... Palechor’s life story, together with Jimeno’s anthropological analysis, provides a valuable contribution to our understandings of Indigenous organizing efforts. The activist perspective will provide probing insights to scholars, and the fluid text will work well for classroom adoption."  — Marc Becker, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Palechor’s life is compelling. Jimeno addresses its historical contexts, the difficulty of maintaining an ethnic identity, the complexities of writing a life history, and the literature on diversity and ethnic pluralism."  — Herbert Braun, Journal of American History

“This well-written work not only provides an approachable view of indigenous intellectuals in the Andes and in the Americas but also shows the trajectory and nature of indigenous organizations. … [T]his book represents an excellent resource for those interested in Andean and American indigenous experiences. For this reason, it will be an excellent addition to graduate and undergraduate courses in Latin American and Native American studies.” — Waskar T. Ari-Chachaki, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Palechor’s autobiography skillfully illustrates how social categories of race and class are lived in the Andes.... Jimeno’s accessible writing style combined with Palechor’s conversational narratives make this work well suited for undergraduate anthropology courses." — Teresa A. Velásquez, American Anthropologist

"At the same time that [Juan Gregorio Palechor] problematizes the nature of indigenous organizing in the Americas by historicizing the dreams that have accumulated over the past four decades, it pointedly reminds us that indigenous politics is at once a fundamental concern of Native peoples and a process that is deeply rooted in the aspirations of their cocitizens who are not indigenous." — Joanne Rappaport, from the Foreword

"The activist Juan Gregorio Palechor's life story is a valuable addition to the history and anthropology of Colombia's indigenous movement. It is an inside account of how struggles initially based on local grievances, particularly illegal land grabs, became the core of a broader political and cultural ideology. Framing Palechor's narrative, Myriam Jimeno addresses some of the methodological and epistemological challenges facing anthropologists who collect such life histories, and she provides vital background to this remarkable man's journey."\ — Jean E. Jackson, coeditor of Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation, and the State in Latin America


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Price: $25.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Myriam Jimeno is Professor of Anthropology at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá. She is the author of several books in Spanish and an award-winning documentary filmmaker.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / Joanne Rappaport ix

Preface xii

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

Part 1. Narrations, Life Stories, and Autobiographies

For Those Who Come After 10

The Anthropological Narrative as Dialogue 12

Life Stories, Biographies, and Autobiographies 14

Recovering the Subaltern Vision 17

Reality, Experience, and Expression: The Authorship of Oral Histories 19

Debates on Techniques in Life Stories 22

Part 2. Juan Gregorio Palechor: Between the Community and the Nation

Identity and Ethnic Re-Creation 28

Ethnicity as Social Relation 35

The Limits of Diversity and Ethnic Recognition 37

Juan Gregorio Palechor: Between the Community and the Nation 44

Cauca, the Guachicono Resguardo, and Indigenous Movements 54

Identity and the Struggle for the Resguardo 60

A Politics of Our Own and the Reinvention of Identity 65

Part 3. Juan Gregorio Palechor: The Story of My Life

Where I Come From: Five Generations of the Macizo Colombiano and Guachicono 76

Recognizing the Way of the World and Observing the Weather 78

Life on the Resguardo 80

Our Nervousness about School and What We Were Taught 88

The Harshness of Family Life and the Art of Agriculture 92

When I Was Conscripted 96

Learning New Things 102

Public Life and Political Violence 104

During the Violence, I Was Forced by Necessity to Work as a Tinterillo 110

The Formation of Community Action Committees: The Liberal Revolutionary Movement and the National Front 119

Religion, Money, and Politics 124

Working with the MRL and the Political Parties 131

The Management Class of the Catholic Religion 135

Looking for an Organization: The Campesino Association and the Indigenous Organization 138

My Work in the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) 143

The Struggles of CRIC and Indigenous Traditions 148

Politiqueros and Their Empty Words 156

Why an Organization of Indigenous People? 158

Appendix: CRIC Documents 163

Glossary 191

Notes 195

References 215

Index 225
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5537-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5522-9
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