QUERY: Possible Meanings of Native Silence

Ezekiel Stear's picture
I am currently working on a close reading of Iciar Bollain’s film También la lluvia (Even the Rain). The film depicts the Water Wars in Cochabamba, Bolivia in the year 2000 against the backdrop of the filming of a documentary concerning the arrival of Columbus to the Caribbean. One of the key actors in the documentary, Daniel (Carlos Aduviri), is also the head organizer of the native resistance to the privatization of water by the Bolivian government. The documentary’s Spanish producer, in order to finish his film, offers Daniel a bribe-- a stack of bills in exchange for suspending his community organizing activities. During a scene in which the director scolds Daniel for participating in the water protests, the latter remains silent. While the director interprets his silence as agreement with his unofficial business proposition, subsequent events in the film make it clear that Daniel did not intend to express agreement with his silence.
 
I wonder if anyone has read any theory or ethnographic writing from Latin American Indigenous writers regarding ways in which Andeans in particular have used silence as a mode of resistance or non-cooperation with westerners. 
 
Please send any responses to egs0061@auburn.edu
 
Thank you in advance, 
 
Ezekiel Stear
Asst. Prof., Lit. of Colonial Spanish America
Auburn University

I've not read anything academic, but indigenous "inscrutability" is a well-known trope. I wonder if the filmmaker isn't just playing with the trope to show how colonizers interpret and misinterpret silence.

This is not Andean, but is Native American and may be applicable. Tsimshian (Gitxaała) listeners remain silent to disagree (different from Euro-Americans, where silence is interpreted as agreement). Many Native American societies value community harmony and courteous behavior more than open conflict, at least in certain situations.
Europeans and North Americans also often assume that bribery is a necessary and acceptable way to get anything done in Latin America. I wish I could remember the source, but there are even business-school type publications which teach this to business students in Europe. This stereotype of corruption is offensive to Latin Americans.
Daniel's silence may reflect both a courteous way to disagree without making a big scene, as well as being offended at the proffered bribe.
Source for Tsimshian information is Charles R. Menzies, People of the Saltwater: An Ethnography of Git Lax M'oon (University of Nebraska Press, 2016), p. 72-73.