Ancient Panama: Chiefs in Search of Power by Mary W. Helms

By Mary W. Helms

Ancient Panama provides intensity to our realizing of the political and non secular elite ruling in Panama on the time of the eu conquest. Mary W. Helms's learn tremendously expands wisdom of the distribution, volume, and structural nature of those pre-Columbian chiefdoms.

In addition, Helms delves extra deeply into pick out facets of historical Panamanian political structures, together with the connection among elite festival and mainly prestige, using sumptuary items within the expression of elite energy, and the function of elites in nearby and long-distance alternate networks. In an important departure from conventional pondering, she proposes that the hunt for esoteric wisdom used to be extra vital than monetary alternate in constructing long-distance touch between chiefdoms.

The basic information for the learn are derived from sixteenth-century Spanish files via Oviedo y Valdés, Andagoya, Balboa, and others. the writer additionally turns to ethnographic info from modern local humans of Panama, Colombia, tropical the US, and Polynesia for analogy and comparability. the result's a hugely leading edge research which illuminates not just pre-Columbian Panamanian elites but additionally the character of chiefdoms as a particular cultural type.

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In fact, as we will argue below, this variety and plurality of actors is one of the central characteristics of the new Latin American left. This is evident in all the case studies in this book, from the indigenous and campesino coalitions in Bolivia, Mexico and Ecuador, and the ‘broad fronts’ of social movements, to the various parties in Uruguay, Brazil and Colombia. Third, the diminished legitimacy and internal crises of traditional parties, which until recently were firmly rooted in the political systems of the entire region, have created political opportunities which the new left formations have succeeded in exploiting.

Vanguards or figures reminiscent of the old left. For example, the weakening and (until 2006) repeated electoral defeats of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in Nicaragua, one-time icon of the Latin American left, can to a large extent be explained by the absence of internal democracy and renewal, linked to the domination of the party by the historic figure of Daniel Ortega (Rocha, 2004; Torres Rivas, 2007). With respect to social movements, we have already referred to the risks of ‘NGO-isation’, with the consequent dominance of professional staff over the grassroots in the making of fundamental strategic decisions.

Some are firmly established – for example, the good government committees in the Zapatista territories and the community councils in the Cochabamba region of Bolivia – while others are more tentative or fleeting, such as the popular assemblies that channelled the discontent of Argentines toward the formal system of political representation. In either case, it involves experiences that take place at a local level, given the logistical limitations of direct citizen participation. Thus, in addition to the promotion of radical democracy, an emerging front on the agenda of the left is the articulation between local participatory democracy and representative democracy at the national level, as illustrated by the campaign initiated by Bolivia’s social movements and the MAS to hold a Constituent Assembly aimed at establishing a new institutional map that would integrate elements of both (see Chapter 8).

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