“Speech Given by Bolivian President Evo Morales in Europe;” Revisited
Friday, February 14, 2014
Last year, on August 12, 2013, I received an email among the mass of emails that I get from a certain list-serve that I’m subscribed to entitled, “Evo Morales Speech before the European Community’s Heads of State 6.30.13.” At first glance, the email didn’t stand out from the rest, but when I finally got around to reading it, I just about jumped from my seat with excitement from the words contained within Morales’s purported speech. The note from the email sender stated: “I’m forwarding this speech given by Bolivian President Evo Morales in Europe. I hope you can read Spanish or can find somebody to translate it for you. It is self-explanatory in its brevity and simplicity.”
The speech was well written, historically relevant, and I had to share it with the world—so I posted it here on my blog on Aug 13, 2013. As an individual who identifies with his Mexika ancestors, receiving the email on August 12 was very significant to me. That day, 492 years ago in 1521, marked the last day that the Mexikah people were free of Spanish invasion, domination, and colonization, and the wording in the speech really resonated with me…
But, being the skeptic that I am, I quickly took to Google to search for more on this. I wanted to know if there was anything on news sites, blogs, and the usual places that report these kinds of things. Many questions begged to be answered, like: Who’s the source? Is there any audio or video of the speech? And, what was the European response(s)? The more I searched, the more I realized that I had been duped, and it soon became disappointingly apparent that President Morales never delivered said speech. I quickly added a correction to the original blog-post the next day, and apologized for passing on misinformation:
Upon further research, it appears that Morales never gave the speech below. It’s an internet hoax, and I got duped; I apologize for this. I got this from an academic history list-serve I’m subscribed to, but I have since found that the entire text is a work of fiction that was originally published in “El Nacional” newspaper of Caracas on Oct 18, 1990, and written by Luis Britto García. I will try to post something on this soon. Again, my apologies for disseminating false information. –tlak [emphasis on original]
I was a little upset, not only for receiving the email from a source that I thought vetted the information it forwards, but also that I fell for something that was too good to be true. I mean, I should have known better. A speech such as this one would not have escaped my radar (it’s dated June 30, 2013) or that of the media; they would have had a field day with it – just as they did when the late president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, delivered his now infamous speech at the United Nations back in 2006.
As I began to probe, desperately looking for a source that would corroborate the email’s claim, I soon found that I was dealing with a hoax, or at best, an internet meme. In fact, I recall reading some posts from years prior suggesting that the speech-hoax-meme dated back to 2001-2002, and that the speech’s author was a Venezuelan writer, Luis Britto García, who originally published it as “Guaicaipuro Cuatemoc cobra la deuda a Europa” in El Nacional newspaper of Caracas on October 18, 1990. I filed the story away and forgot all about it, which brings us to the point of this post.
Since posting the speech back in August, it has received several thousand hits, and in fact, it’s my blog’s most viewed post! Most of the attention is coming from Central and Eastern Europe, especially Hungary. Why? I’m not sure. I wish I could speak, or at least read, Hungarian to learn more on why Evo’s supposed speech is of so much interest in that part of the world. Perhaps someone will clue me in on that.
For this post, I’ve gone beyond the mere simple Google search to try to dig up more information on this enigmatic speech, and I’m sorry to report that my search for Britto García’s original publication did not return the actual newspaper article. Other than blog and forum posts, the only item I found tying Britto García to the published speech is from Wikipedia—so take that for what it’s worth. Nonetheless, here’s the text from the Spanish Wiki page, followed by my English translation (the English page does not have this info):
Luis Britto García, con motivo del Día de la resistencia indígena, escribió el texto “Guaicaipuro Cuatemoc cobra la deuda a Europa” que fue publicado por el diario El Nacional de Caracas, el 18 de octubre de 1990. En este texto de ficción, Britto reflexiona sobre la deuda que tiene Europa con América y con qué palabras un indígena americano podría reclamar tal deuda. La obra, escrita en forma de epístola, fue luego difundida por internet con el nombre de “Conferencia del Cacique Guaicaipuro Cuatemoc ante la reunión de los Jefes de Estado de la Comunidad Europea”, haciendo creer a la gente que un verdadero cacique indígena pronunció esas palabras en una conferencia internacional. Si bien el personaje es ficticio y la presencia indígena en tal conferencia jamás ocurrió, el texto contiene una reflexión sobre el tema de la conquista y sobre el desarrollo de Europa a través del uso de las riquezas naturales de América.
Translation: For the Day of Indigenous Resistance [October 12], Luis Britto García wrote the text “Guaicaipuro Cuatemoc Charges Europe its Debt” which was published by the newspaper El Nacional in Caracas, on October 18, 1990. In this fictional text, Britto reflects on Europe’s debt to America with language that an indigenous American could use to claim such debt. Written as a letter, the piece was later spread on the internet under the name “Conference by the Chief Guaicaipuro Cuatemoc before the European Community’s Heads of State,” making people believe that a actual indigenous chief spoke those words at an international conference. While the character is fictional and the indigenous presence in that conference never happened, the text contains a reflection on the theme of conquest and the development of Europe through the use of America’s natural resources.
Although, Wikipedia is not a perfect source, there’s no reason for me to doubt Britto García’s authorship of the speech. A simple Google search for Britto García’s and Guaicaipuro Cuatémoc’s names will return plenty of results dating back to at least 2002. However, unless an actual copy—digital or otherwise—of the original newspaper publication surfaces, there will always be skepticism about the speech’s provenance. It remains to be seen if this speech-hoax-meme will re-emerge again, but given its history, it’s a sure bet that it will.
Prior to its latest incarnation under President Morales’s name, the speech was being circulated around the web no earlier than February 8, 2002 when the “conference” was supposed to have taken place. Some sources suggest that it originated first in mass-email blasts (like the one I received), and that it had occurred either in Barcelona, Valencia, and even Japan. The earliest public post I was able to find dates to May of 2002 on the Universidad de Alcala’s (Spain) website tilted, “Exposicion del Cacique Guaicaipuro Cuatémoc ante la reunion de Jefes de Estados de la Comunidad Europea.” The speech was posted anonymously (of course) by “Una amiga Colombiana” (a Colombian friend) under the heading “¿Quien le debe a quien?: La verdadera deuda externa” (Who owes Whom?: the Real Foreign Debt).
By June of 2002, skeptics—who were unaware that it was a twelve year old text—were already calling into question its veracity. One blogger in particular tried to locate the source of the speech-hoax-meme but was unsuccessful, so instead he deconstructed the text to “psychoanalyze” its author. He concludes that the author of the speech has university training, possibly in the humanities; tries to pass for indigenous in the beginning of the text, but exposes his academic background later in the text; is pro-indigenous and anti-Western with isolationist inclinations; and is possibly an activist with ties to Latin America; just to name a few of his conclusions.
What is amazing about this analysis is that, without knowing the provenance of the piece, the blogger correctly describes Britto García’s background. What is important about all of this is that, from the onset, skeptics questioned the veracity of the hoax and could tell that something wasn’t right with the story. What’s even more amazing is that the speech-hoax-meme took on a life of its own, persisting in cyberspace, and eventually morphing into a speech credited to President Evo Morales of Bolivia ten years later.
I cross referenced the three versions of the speech, and there are only two major differences between them. The 2002 version omits the last three lines of Britto García’s 1990 original:
Dicen los pesimistas del Viejo Mundo que su civilización está en una bancarrota que le impide cumplir sus compromisos financieros o morales. En tal caso, nos contentaríamos con que nos pagaran entregándonos la bala con la que mataron al poeta. Pero no podrán: porque esa bala, es el corazón de Europa.
Translation: Old World pessimists say their civilization is in a bankruptcy that hinders it from fulfilling their financial and moral commitments. In that case, we should be satisfied if they [Europe] paid us with the bullet used to kill the poet. But they will not: because that bullet is the heart of Europe.
The 2013 version, which is obviously taken from the one in 2002, also leaves out the quoted text above. It also differs from the first two in the quantitative analysis offered in the original—in reference to gold, silver, and the interest rate owed by Europe, but the meat of the speech’s criticism remains intact.
Regardless of your opinion on the matter and the confusion this speech-hoax-meme has caused over the years, its role reversal of Latin America’s foreign debt and projecting it onto Europe is a valid critical analysis worth paying attention to. This might explain the speech-hoax-meme’s popularity and permanence; indigenous people are still negatively impacted by the effects of invasion, colonialism, and dispossession—both directly and indirectly, especially in the developing countries around the globe.
The focus today has been on Britto García’s speech, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about the name he chose as the deliverer of said speech, Guaicaipuro Cuatémoc:
Guaicaipuro (circa 1530–1568) was a native (indigenous) Venezuelan chief of both the Teques and Caracas tribes… [He] formed a powerful coalition of different tribes which he led during part of the 16th century against the Spanish conquest of Venezuelan territory in the central region of the country, specially [sic] in the Caracas valley.
Cuatémoc, or Cuauhtémoc(tzin), was the last tlahtoani (speaker) of the Mexikah (Aztec) people when the Spanish and their thousands of indigenous allies defeated them on August 13, 1521. His story, like that of the Mexikah nation he led, is a tragic one and worth looking into. I will try to post something about him later.
Britto García, a proud Venezuelan, chose to name his character after two indigenous leaders that resisted Spanish incursion to the very end and who continue to embody the very act of resistance itself. Cuauhtémoc has long been a figure of interest not just in Mexico, but also in other Latin American countries, and Britto García, undoubtedly cognizant of that, chose to couple Venezuela’s hero with that of Mexico’s to produce an almost magical persona deserving of reverence, respect, and, more importantly, a receptive audience to his European indictment.
Britto García could not have imagined the long lasting impact that his fictional Guaicaipuro Cuatémoc speech would reach almost a quarter of a century later, much less in the form of an internet meme. As long as Native/Indigenous communities find themselves protecting what little is left of their culture, land, and resources, his ideas about retribution and a “Plan Marshalltzuma” will continue to resonate with the indigenous online community for years to come.
 Tlakatekatl, “Speech given by Bolivian President #EvoMorales in #Europe June 30, 2013 | #Marshalltesuma #Indigenous #decolonize,” Amatlakwiloa, accessed February 14, 2014, https://tlakatekatl.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/speech-given-by-bolivian-president-evomorales-in-europe-june-30-2013-marshalltesuma-indigenous-decolonize/.
 “2006 Chávez Speech at the United Nations,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, February 12, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=2006_Ch%C3%A1vez_speech_at_the_United_Nations&oldid=543330372.
 “Luis Britto García,” Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre, January 24, 2014, http://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Luis_Britto_Garc%C3%ADa&oldid=68571879.
 “‘Rájövök, Hogy Én Is Kérhetek Kártérítést, És Kérhetek Kamatot.’ – Evo Morales Bolíviai Elnök Beszéde,” Nemzeti InternetFigyelő, accessed February 17, 2014, http://internetfigyelo.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/rajovok-hogy-en-is-kerhetek-karteritest-es-kerhetek-kamatot-evo-morales-boliviai-elnok-beszede-az-ensz-ulesen/.
 “‘Guaicaipuro Cuatemoc cobra la deuda a Europa,’ de Luis Britto García,” Atea y Sublevada, accessed February 15, 2014, http://ateaysublevada.over-blog.es/article-guaicaipuro-cuatemoc-cobra-la-deuda-a-europa-de-luis-britto-garcia-86443396.html.
 “Buzón Del Lector,” Universidad de Alcala, May 2002, http://www2.uah.es/vivatacademia/anteriores/n35/buzon.htm.
 Eduardo García Gaspar, “El Cacique Guaicaipuro Cuatemoc,” Contrapeso, July 12, 2002, http://contrapeso.info/2002/el_cacique_guaicaipuro_cuatemoc/.
 “Guaicaipuro,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, January 30, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Guaicaipuro&oldid=561965434.