De-colonizing water. Dispossession, water insecurity, and Indigenous claims for resources, authority, and territory

By Juan Pablo Higaldo, Rutgerd Boelens, and Jeroen Vos


Set against the background of struggles for territory, livelihood, and dignified existence in Latin America’s neoliberal conjuncture, this paper examines contemporary Andean Indigenous claims for water access and control rights based on historical arguments. In the case of the Acequia Tabacundo irrigation system in the north-Ecuadorian Highlands, the rights claims deployed in peasant-Indigenous struggles are cultural and social hybrids. They are rooted in Indigenous history, but also spawned by centuries of interaction with and defense against colonial and post-colonial frames imposed by the Spanish Empire, modern Ecuadorian State structures and influences of transnational capital. Through these conflicts over Indigenous water rights, authority, and identity, this article illustrates and examines the role of Indigenous accounts of their water histories, striving to reclaim, and govern their water territories in times of booming export-flower water extraction.

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