Table Topics: “Learning from the Past? Facts and Fictions from Historical Societies with Greater Diversity” – The Case of 19th Century Latin America (Lorena Ossio Bustillos)


Lorena Ossio Bustillos (photo: private)

In Latin America, before people began to talk about the Indians or indigeneity, the liberal constitutional projects of the 19th century concentrated on equal citizenship rights; the indigenous communities and the access to collective rights were hereby silenced. The indigenous population had “hidden” under the identity of “Campesino” (peasant). The peasant movements in Mexico, Bolivia, Guatemala and all of Latin America consisted of indigenous peoples who did not demand their cultural difference who neither demanded the recognition of ther cultural difference, nor their civil rights, but instead stood up for their their social rights, i.e. their land rights. With the first Congreso Indigenista Interamericano (First Inter-American Congress of Indigenous Peoples) that took place in 1940 in Pátzcuaro, Mexico, this started to change. According to José Bengoa, at least four concepts have been established for the legal discourse, which are still in one way or another belong to the definition of the indigeneity: first, the relationship between the pre-colonial inhabitants, peoples and nations, and the indigenous communities, which is often the subject of much discussion. Second, the lack of a demand for the recognition of ethnic or “cultural purity”, but rather the acceptance that the contact with the indigenous communities has led to numerous changes in those communities, which therefore do not cease to be indigenous; Third, the affirmation that self-identification (the feeling of belonging and finally (fourth) that there are separate forms of work, languages, cultures and traditions which ultimately separate the Indigenous Peoples from the non-Indigenous Peoples and characterize it.

At the table “Learning from the Past? Facts and Fictions from Historical Societies with Greater Diversity“, Lorena Ossio will also describe how the legal discourse prefigured the history of the colonial period in Latin America, and how historiography is deeply influenced by legal requirements. The construction of justice systems raise serious questions and problems. One problem is that it habe been long a prevailing assumption that every state must possess a unified legal system backed by coercive enforcement. A second major problem is that indigenous customary systems may be inconsistent with national constitution and are perceived as systems that violate human rights or women´s rights. Another central topic for this table is also to discuss to what extent does the legal discourse play a role in the construction of identities.

Lorena Ossio is Senior Researcher and Coordinator of the Project “Law and Diversity in Latin America” at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History. Lecturer at the German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer.Her research interests focus on Constitutional and Administrative History of the 19th and 20th century in Latin America; Comparative Studies of Social Law and Indigenous Law with focus on the Andean Countries; on the Principle of Equality and Prohibition of Discrimination in Social Law in Latin America. Lorena Ossio coordinates a blog of the international collaborative research project on “Law and Diversity” from a legal historian´s perspective (

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Max Weber Stiftung (2016, 16. November). Table Topics: “Learning from the Past? Facts and Fictions from Historical Societies with Greater Diversity” – The Case of 19th Century Latin America (Lorena Ossio Bustillos). WeberWorldCafé. Abgerufen am 20. Juni 2024, von

Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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