The Envisronment

The Wisdom of Hugo Blanco

A revolutionary voice for social justice

Peru’s legendary socialist peasant leader, Hugo Blanco, is now 84 years old. A former elected member of the Peruvian Senate, he is a visionary climate activist and advocate for Indigenous peoples movements across the globe. Today, he describes himself as an ecosocialist—anti-capitalist and pro-nature. 

In the recent photo, Blanco meets with a younger hero, Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her climate justice activism. 

Here are a few thoughts from Hugo Blanco on Ecosocialism, Indigenous Wisdom, and Power From Below. —Mark Harris

  • “The inhabitants of the Andes felt great respect for nature, for Pachamama. We are not referring to the non-use of agrochemicals, which did not exist, but to other aspects, such as the care for the arable soil: by making terraces known as andenes, leaving fringes of grass on the hillsides to contain the earth, giving the canals a certain course so they cause less land erosion, making the furrows on the hillsides with the necessary inclination depending on the degree of rainwater, so that the rain erodes the smallest possible quantity of soil (some of these techniques still exist.)”
  • “During the Inca period there was, and now there still is, full understanding and use of biodiversity. An average sized community had one group of people raising alpaca in the uplands and another cultivating coca in the low part. When a community member is asked what his land produces and he answers proudly that it produces ‘complete,’ he is indicating that it has various ecological terrains. As a boy, I took potatoes from the high ground to exchange for tuna from the mountain streams, as a youth I exchanged coca (before the empire ordered the sacred leaf to be exterminated) from the forest edge for ch’arki (cured meat) and cheese from the cold mountains.”
  • “The modern inhabitants of the forest have been hugely influenced by their ancestors’ culture. They knew how to build their houses on stilts so that they were not affected by floods. They learned from them how to eat the palmito (the heart of the palm,) the yucca and the pijuayo. They memorized how to prepare the quintessential forest drink the masato. They knew how to sail on the Amazon’s rivers. They know the healing properties of many of the plants.”
  • “My fight now is for water, I am also with the Amazonians who fight in defense of the rainforest, which are the lungs of the world. I am also against agro-industry, because it practices monoculture that is impoverishing the earth, because they put chemical fertilizers on the land. They also use insecticides and herbicides that are killing nature, they do not worry about killing the land because after killing the land cultivated here, the multinationals can go to Asia and Africa, to continue killing the land. They also produce for export, growing artichokes and asparagus that suck up a lot of water, taking away the water that should be for Peruvians.” 
  • “I don’t believe in leaders or caudillos [strongmen] or managers. But I think that what we need to push forward is the movement for collectivity. That’s what I believe in: power from below. And that organized society can be like that.”
  • “We understand that ‘ecosocialism’ is a new idea for the urban population. This is not the case for indigenous people of the Americas (I don’t know about other indigenous groups, but I believe that it is similar in other continents) who have been struggling for ecosocialism for more than 500 years. Ignoring these remarks will show that your Eurocentric belief system continues to be central in your understanding, a deficiency that revolutionary people must surpass.”
    —Hugo Blanco

Messenger, March 14, 2019