Latin America: Leticia Merino Pérez on “Commons, past and future, in Latin America. Indigenous communities, experiences and struggles.”

Professor Leticia Merino Pérez holds a PHD in Anthropology, a Masters in Demographics and a Masters in Sociology. For more than 35 years Dr. Pérez has worked on use, management and governance of natural resources and biodiversity, particularly in forest landscapes and on policies related with indigenous and peasant communities. She has authored and coauthored more than 75 scientific articles, and 8 books, published in Spanish and English. From 1995 LM works at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Since 2021 as coordinator of sustainability of UNAM.

She was a board member of the International Association for the Study of the Commons, from 2005 to 2016, and president of the IASC, from 2013 a 2015. From 2016 to 2022 she was member of the United Nations´ Committee for Development Policies. From 2017 to 2019 she was Lead Author or the Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystems, From 2018 she is Lead Faculty of the Earth System Governance Project and member of the advisory board of the International Panel for Social Progress.

Latin America hosts a rich biological and natural diversity, the largest watershed in the world, the largest tropical forests in the world that host, together with other LA regions host about 60% of the terrestrial biological diversity. Many of LA ecosystems and natural resources were historically and are currently owned, used, managed, and governed as commons. LA is also home of 46 million indigenous people, 43% of them are poor and 24% extreme poor, whose large majority live in Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico. For thousand years LA has also hosted agrobiodiversity commons. Biodiversity together with a large cultural diversity resulted in an impressive agrobiodiversity, that originated mostly in Mesoamerica, the Andes, and the Amazon, three of the seven global sites of origin of agriculture. LA is the world´s region with the longest story of colonialism that destroyed much of the indigenous societies, culture and knowledge, nature, and commons governance. The hurtful poverty among indigenous people, a pervasive and widespread racism and the profound inequality of LA societies are part of the harmful inheritance of the European colonization.

For the last three decades the increasing activities of extractive corporations in the Global South, has particularly hit LA, and particularly indigenous societies and lands. The expansion of extractivism has deepened inequality, destroyed indigenous and local livelihoods, driving an unprecedented environmental destruction. All over the region, indigenous and local communities have fought these repeated dispositions, often phrasing their mobilization as defense of the commons. For the construction of the much-needed positive narratives, aiming to think the way out of the current environmental and social crisis, reflection and mobilization of academics and activists, particularly indigenous academics, and activists, is already taking place and should expand. I am certain that the framework of the commons, community building and communing, can play and should play a key role.