Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Political-Ethical Stance For Decolonizing Movements by Chris Rodriguez

As a Decolonial movements seek to decolonize the Occupy Wall Street Movement(s), a political-ethical stance inspired by two already existing movements is worth sharing: (1) The ethics of decolonizing food movements rooted in indigenous principles. I originally published this piece with a generalization of this dynamic autonomous movement of movements by calling it the food sovereignty movement. After a series of critical reflection I engaged with my compañera on the differences between decolonization, self-determination and sovereignty I realized that the ethics discussed here go far beyond sovereignty. Taiaiake Alfred, Gustavo Esteve & Madhu Prakash offer important critiques on sovereignty and universal human rights (among other topics) that provoked me to clarify the language used in this piece. In a nut-shell, I am not here to promote sovereignty since it implies the reaffirming role and rule of Western thought, governance, state/nation-hood, and heirarchal control over the land. This is an offereing of some lessons i've gained in decolonzing movements and decolonizing food movements which are inclusive of all of our relations—people, plants, animals, water and the land.  It is how we defend and give voice to the land. (2) The Zapatista initiated Other Campaign. Because it is the one and only movement with the political trajectory and international solidarity that articulates the idea of creating another way of doing politics from below and to the left…in other words a decolonial political-ethical stance.  

These two movements of movements can teach us how not to be co-opted while providing us with guiding examples of how to stay on the course we are already on. That is, on the path of assembly and encountering the other—los de abajo—as we seek to decolonize. One way to actually experience decolonization live in the flesh is by eating a plant-based local indigenous diet that is ecologically and geographically specific to where one lives.

A Xicano’s Perspective on Decolonizing Food Movements

Since the colonization of Turtle Island-Abyayala (North, Central and South America) a heavily animal-based diet has been imposed on the brown bodies of my indigenous ancestors and relatives. When the European livestock disembarked from colonial ships, they trampled their way onto the land displacing the flora and fauna with their filthiness and disease carrying mierda-shit! Despite their ecological nuisance European cattle ranchers and dairy farmers thrived economically off the backs of the brown bodies that supplied a slave labor force. Cattle ranchers and dairy farmers today still privilege profit over nature and animal and human labor.

The inhumane practices of commercial meat and dairy industries disproportionately impact migrant workers like the Ruby Ridge farm workers, who are exposed to daily forms of violence that include the act of slaughtering, abusing and exploiting female animals and racist, inhumane treatment from generally white-male foremen and managers. But an anti-spiciest will tell you that the farm worker is not the only exploited factor in this equation. For the dairy cow, a female animal, forms part of the labor force under a patriarchal capitalist colonial food matrix of power. Dairy corporations like Darigold violently force dairy cows to produce milk for human consumption—two million gallons a day and seven billion pounds of milk per year (Darigold's website Using pumps that suck these female cows dry to the point where they are no longer able to stand on their calcium-depleted legs, they are eventually sent off to slaughterhouses where they will experience a torturous death. Their calves, separated at birth, will become veal meat. The history behind this patriarchal-capitalist food system dates back to colonization. You see, as rape came with conquest so did the idea that the brown female body we call the land and everything that inhabits her dwellings like the female animals are for the taking. For centuries since colonization, the brown body and disproportionately the brown female body have been under colonial domination through the foods they have been forced to produce and consume. Trapped in the colonial food matrix of power they are equally part of the same labor force that drives production and consumption of a Eurocentric Standard American Diet—a SAD diet.

With roots in a heavily meat and processed food based paradigm the SAD has attempted to displace plant-based consumption within native and indigenous communities of Turtle Island-Abyayala. This has been unsuccessful but not insignificant. Indigenous plant-based foodways that are ecologically sustainable continue to exist outside of the colonial food matrix of power. The so-called "Latino Health Paradox" is scientific evidence for those who privilege Western research methodologies. It documents the fact that first generation migrant workers in the U.S. are healthier than some might expect. The use of the term paradox however exposes the inferiority complex of Western culture; how dare "they" be healthier than "us"! Yet, with the banning of our peoples’ his/herstories from schools how can our culture and foodways that are ancestrally healthy for our bodies and the land be passed down to the future generations? Forced assimilation into the U.S. mainstream in this sense is genocide in its truest form.   

Food in the public school system and supermarket chains shove industrialized beef, chicken, pork and countless other animal by-products that came with European colonization down the throats of our children. And like their masters, these foreign animals require a systematically violent defense mechanism to protect them from any threat. The real threat to these cattle ranchers and dairy farmers like Ruby Ridge and Darigold are the native wolves and coyotes who enjoy preying on their "property", cattle and workers alike, so therefore must be violently eradicated using electric fencing (like the U.S.-Mexico border), traps (ICE raids), bullets (no difference here), and forced removal (deportations and separation of families). The migrant worker shares the same fate as the feminized industrialized animal protein producers (dairy cows and cattle) in the U.S. What ethic drives this food system and way of eating? A protestant or machista one perhaps? The same ethic driving the U.S. Empire's "War on Terrorism"? It certainly is not an ecologically rooted ethic. Definitely not a rational ethic. It is simply a patriarchal, capitalist, protestant and European-colonial ethic that privileges humans over animals and profit over dignity.

Consumption of meat not only needs to be profoundly reduced in the Western dominated cultures of the world but shifting the political economy of how they and food all together are produced is necessary in order to strengthen decolonizing food movements. This can begin only after an epistemological decolonization occurs within consumers who seek to liberate themselves, the land and the animals. If meat consumption is minimized enough (this is vague because it all depends on one's physical activity and the sustainable availability of wild game and fish) then support of Native/Indigenous operated food cooperatives and vendors is a critical step forwards towards strengthening the decolonization of our communities. For learning how to eat native animals seasonally and how to prepare Local, Ecological, Sustainable, Organic, Native, and Seasonal plant-based foods are L.E.S.O.N.S. we must all learn in order to decolonize our bodies and the land.

The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and the Other Campaign: Another way of doing politics and a guide to decolonize the Occupy Wall Street Movement(s)
On January 1, 2012 the we celebrated with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) their 18 years of public rebellion and 28 years of its clandestine birth. In classic Zapatista-inspired fashion, folks from all over the world representing their local yet linked struggles gathered at CIDECI-UNITIERRA in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico for the 2nd Seminario Internacional de Refelxión y Análisis…planeta tierra: movimientos antisistémicos held between December 30, 2011 and January 2, 2012. Among the participants were representatives from the Occupy Wall Street Movement in New York. One of them, a white female, gave an interesting report on the OWS sharing its successes and challenges. During the Q & A the question of decolonization came up with respect to the OWS. Needless to say, the question remained unanswered. I share this anecdote which I picked up online through audio recordings taken from Radio Zapatista, because the Decolonize Wall Street discourse has traveled to Zapatista territory. As a Xicano building on the bridges built by other Xicanas y Xicanos who first went down to Chiapas in 1994, es mi deber, my duty, to propose that we bring into dialogue the Other Campaign and what Zapatismo can teach the Occupy Wall Street Movement. For this is a proposal that concerns all People of Color in the U.S. who rebel in dignified ways.

In my humble opinion, the best way to begin this dialogue is by analyzing the Sixth Declaration de La Selva Lacandona released by the EZLN in June 2005 which is the ideological framework that came into praxis as the Other Campaign. In a dope summary by Hermann Bellinghausen and Gloria Muñoz Ramírez titled, The Next Step: The Sixt Declarationof the Lacandon Jungle, they quote the declaration:

“It is an invitation to, ‘indigenous peoples, workers, peasants, teachers, students, housekeepers, farmworkers, small landowners, small businesspeople, micro-entreprenuers, retirees, the handicapped, clergy-men, and clergywomen, scientists, artists, intellectuals, youths, women, elders, gays, lesbians and children to individually or collectively participate directly with the Zapatistas in a national [and international] campaign to develop a different way of doing politics, a national [and international] program of struggle from the left, and a new Constitution.’

In taking up this invitation, all working groups participating in OWS general assemblies should collectively read it and begin a dialogue (if folks haven’t already) on adhering to its political stance which affirms,

“Never to make agreements from above and impose them below, but to agree to join forces to listen and to organize indignation; never to create movements that can then be negotiated behind the backs of those who built them, but to always take into account the opinions of their participants; never to seek giveaways, positions, personal advantage or public appointments from the structures of power or from those who aspire them, but to look beyond electoral calendars; never to attempt to solve the nation’s problems from above, but to build an alterNative from below to neoliberal destruction, a left alterNative […]”

While there is much more to bring into dialogue that will guide us on the path of decolonization this, I feel, is enough homework for now. But we must not forget the Rights of Mother Earth and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the broken treaties, and most importantly the presence and voice of our local native brothers and sisters that hold palabra.

Siempre Adelante! Falta lo que falta…

Chris Rodriguez
Decolonial Food For Thought
Aderente a La Otra Campaña


  1. Thank you for this piece, eye opening and heart wrenching for sure!

  2. Would you allow us to republish this blog post on the decolonize Oakland website?

    1. Luz, yes please feel free to republish. Tlazokamate!

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