Women of Abya Yala

From a Womanist and Decolonial Perspective

By Yenny Delgado

After many decades of work and mobilization against laws that seek control over women’s roles in society, maternity decisions, women’s political participation, and women’s ecclesiastical leadership, among others. The women’s movement raised its voice for equality and equity in society.

In society’s meta-narrative and Judeo-Christian theological belief, man is at the center of power, society, culture, and religious practices. From the patriarchal political rules, legislative bodies are made up primarily of men that legislate on the morality of the framework of society. Indeed, for centuries the place of women has often been a place of marginalization and submission both in society and ecclesiastical spaces. This marginalization hurts the community and leads to a fracture of women’s identity, lack of clear opportunities for leadership, oppression in the family structure, and forced assimilation to cultural norms that impact social dynamics and women’s theological reflection. 

The women of Abya Yala* have experienced the colonization of our bodies and territories, humiliation, and lack of recognition of self-identity as a native population. A society built on colonizing the land and forcing native women to navigate the oppressor’s culture, history, and religious practice makes native women doubly vulnerable.

In the history of the women’s movement, the Native women’s participation, our presence, voice, and needs have been invisible. The main protagonist of the women’s struggle has long been represented by European-descendant women, who mobilized for the right to have equal participation as white men. However, other voices were left behind, even though Native women had been denouncing for decades; ethnic discrimination, racism, and supremacist ideologies were increasingly practiced.

Under this context, a theological reflection as women of Abya Yala aims to decolonize and liberate the living conditions of women through understanding our historical experiences. Recognizing the struggle and the value of our ancestral memories, our original languages, and spiritual practices provide the necessary recognition and open an opportunity for renewed discourse on the women’s movement and action in the public square and throughout society.

Womanist derives from the word “woman.”

Womanism derives from the word “woman,” and in the historical sense of the term, womanist comes from the experience of African-descendant women in the United States who were enslaved and often passed from childhood to adulthood at a young age to assume household responsibilities in the process of generational slavery to which they were subjected.

Native women’s experiences were similar; women were confined to service and forced servitude, including sexual abuse from colonizers and forced work on their own land. On the other hand, European descendant women in Abya Yala distanced themself from colonizing history. They played the role of daughters, wives, and mothers of colonizers and enslavers in Abya Yala. The lack of reflection or recognition of this history of women further highlights the benefits and positions of power and status afforded them in a white supremacist patriarchal society. Indeed, in the United States, it is estimated that approximately 40% of all enslavers of women and men of African descent based on the census from 1850 to 1860 were White women. These facts show the inequality in the women’s movement from the three significant ethnic communities (Native, African, and European descendants in Abya Yala) looking to approach liberation on women’s role in society and religious spaces.

Womanist theology against colonization and patriarchy

Women theologians of African and Native descendants in the late 1970s understood the conditions for women to visualize and have their voice. The theologians highlighted how the texts were predominantly written by white theologians and did not consider the perspectives and viewpoints of women in the church. Womanists created a methodological approach to studying and writing theology that focuses on the experience of women who struggle against oppression and colonization. 

Women developed new theologies through their role as professors, pastors, and leaders advocating for a place in the dialogue for women’s studies and perspectives in theological spaces, as well as in the field of ethical theology in which the understanding and regulations of moral norms have governed the society, the house, and the church for a long time.

The last few decades have been influential as women began to expose the triple dynamics of ethnicity, sex, and economic oppression in a colonized land. Women advocated for the right to freedom to do theological and social work from different disciplines and use intersectional work thanks to the contribution of Kimberly Crenshaw, who, since 1989, has worked on the concept of intersectionality-related systems of oppression, domination, and discrimination in the United States. Her social and academic contributions open new doors to another way of reflection. The results of these battles have given women greater autonomy in society and are now promoted as good policies in progressive governments, but still, many more challenges are ahead. 

Today we can see some results, which show in practice and establishment not only in a society where we can see women presidents and congresswomen but also in the church, with leading women becoming theologians, bishops, pastors, ruling elders, and other vital roles.

From this historical analysis, a better understanding of the women of Abya Yala can show a broader approach to how women re-imagine other forms of women who have gone through all the complex situations in a patriarchal and colonial society.

Today is clear: Abya Yala’s women empower themselves with reflections on a historical colonial experience, ancestral memory of resistance, and hope for the new future that allows them to continue raising their voices in a context of violence, disadvantages, and oppression. The discourse of the “monolithic and universal history of the women’s movement” is now amplified to integrate the native women’s history, memory, and public faith practice that continues to be shared around the community.

The countless number of unsolved cases involving disappearances and murders of women and girls of Native descendants in the Abya Yala is an example that can show the lack of attention to women’s disadvantage. A long way from the native women’s concerns was liberation in responding to historical facts and working intensely in a decolonizing Christianity from Abya Yala. However, until 2022, the cases of inequality, womencide, and discrimination against Native women of the continent struggle for true representation in academia and at a political level that continues to practice colonial ideologies.

Today the problems of ending a colonial narrative and policies are still on the agenda. Ensuring the right for native languages to be taught, access to land to cultivate and ownership, and ending forced sterilizations for governments as forms of birth control of native populations continue to be issues that women need to advocate for in the women’s movement.

Why are women in a situation of disadvantage? Reading and interpreting the Bible in context is necessary from the theological vantage point. We can read in Genesis that woman was created in the image of God. Women are not only instruments of God but call to be active in the life of God’s message. As we can read in the Bible, many women took the liberation role, such as Esther, Ruth, Mary, Lydia, and others, many of whom we will never know their names. Active participation and leadership are interwoven with pain, discrimination, and oppression were part of a religious control system that we recognize is part of women’s path.

Women of Abya Yala, from a womanist and decolonial perspective, continue to work for more inclusive practices, liberation, and proclaiming a prophetic message across the continent.

Native Peoples’ Day

We honor the past, present, and future of native peoples in Abya Yala

How often have we stopped to examine and marvel at the greatness of architecture, agriculture, and spiritualities practices in Abya Yala* before the “encounter”?

The bountiful nature of Abya Yala allows us, native peoples, to live in harmony with the extensive rivers, high mountains, beautiful deserts, enormous sequoias, and sprawling jungles. In the middle of this paradise, we learned to live in community, cultivate the land, and give thanks to the sun, moon, and rain for being part of the creation for thousands of years.

A millenary history of cosmovision and traditional practices were abruptly and brutally upended by the arrival of European colonizers over 530 years ago. This “encounter” was a ruthless, oppressive colonial regime that changed our ancestors’ way of life. The colonization process with the face of “salvation” and “civilization” would appear in the stories and memories of the original peoples as constant pain and as a cross to bear.

In the eyes of the European colonizers, our identities, languages, and spiritual practices needed to change, as we were seen as “uncivilized.” They forced assimilations into their languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French) and standardized forms of worship of God as they brought European Christianity as a formula of salvation. For native populations, adapting and assimilating were the only way to survive. At the same time, colonizers confiscated the land, enslaving native peoples to work in mining and cultivating the land ( for cotton, sugar, and cacao, among other export crops) so that European kingdoms could prosper. The original people were pushed to the peripheries of knowledge, without voice, and into the shadows of history.

Today, 530 years later, amid the magical realism of encounters of cultures about this date, we are encouraged by controlled history books and history classes to forget the true story of this genocide. Though it is painful, we need to recognize that being here is an act of courage and resistance during slavery, genocide, and the forced process of assimilation to which the native peoples have been subjected for centuries. We still suffer the consequences of these centuries of trauma and pain. A deep look at our roots, identities, and ancestral memories is so far questioned.

In the way of decolonization and liberation today, we remember and thank our grandmothers and grandfathers for keeping our history and ancestral memory alive. For the new generations, this is our most incredible legacy and heritage. We have a sacred task and an opportunity to honor our people’s past, present, and future. Our cultures, languages, and ancestral spiritualities must be recognized on this date.

*Abya Yala comes from the Guna language and means “land in full maturity and land of vital blood.” The Guna people inhabit the meeting points of the north and south geographically, and the use of their language symbolically represents the connectivity of the lands. In the 1970s, the term Abya Yala was adopted by many native activists, farmers, historians, politicians, and theologians as the unified name instead of using North America (primarily English speakers) and Latin America (predominantly Spanish and Portuguese speakers), which perpetuate colonial divisions.


Yenny Delgado

She is a doctoral candidate in the Psychology of Religion at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland). Yenny has a master’s degree in Public Theology (United States) and a master’s degree in International Cooperation (Spain). Degree in Psychology (Peru) and Degree in Theology (UBL, Costa Rica). She has worked with social movements, local churches, and regional governments to promote equity and inclusive education in Abya Yala. Founder and Director of PUBLICA. Ruling Elder in the PCUSA. Convener of Women Doing Theology in Abya Yala.


Mónica Benavides, hdv[1]

Somos cuerpos territorios habitando territorios cuerpos

El territorio en el Evangelio habla con cada acontecer, es el ambón de la Palabra. Es el lugar donde se urde la vida, donde se vive la experiencia que se hace relato y se convierte en la memoria de nuestros pueblos. El territorio suele hablar también estando en silencio.

El territorio es sujeto, un ecosistema vivo que está en sinergia con nuestra existencia. Es el lugar donde se materializa la acción de Dios. Continuamente, el territorio habla del Evangelio y el Evangelio habla del territorio, ellos se urden en un solo relato para contarse mutuamente. En el territorio, la historia humana se vuelve historia de salvación, porque la Palabra camina con nosotros en la cotidianidad, dando sentido y significado a nuestra andadura, en ese caminar juntos, que nos hace Pueblo de Dios.

Las mujeres salen entre la noche y el día, con la urgencia de quienes aman, de quienes sueñan con otros amaneceres. Ellas habitan el territorio porque lo recorren. Ellas caminan para ir a ver el sepulcro, para visitar aquel lugar donde la Madre Tierra envuelve y acurruca a sus hijos con ternura. Aquel territorio sabe de nuestros gritos, del dolor humano huelleado con nuestros signos. Por eso, se estremece para ayudar a rodar las piedras, abre hendijas para que se cuele nuevamente la vida y nos catapulta hacia el alba. 

El territorio es espacio de construcción social que cambia con la acción de quienes lo habitan. Así, en Marcos 28, 1-10, las mujeres del alba transforman el territorio con su quehacer y con el arte de saber habitarlo, lo dinamizan y dejan huella. Cotidianamente, las mujeres habitan los lugares de contrastes para entretejerlos, ellas saben bien que el cosmos posee fuerzas opuestas que lo unifican, que le otorga su razón de ser y lo delimita. En efecto, el relato está cargado de complementariedad entre la oscuridad y la luz, lo femenino y lo masculino, el silencio y la palabra, la muerte y la vida, lo humano y lo sagrado, la tierra y el cielo, el crucificado y el resucitado. Las acciones colectivas de las mujeres visibilizan el cuerpo territorial para repolitizar lo cotidiano, a través del movimiento de la vida, y la interacción de los contrarios revelan la unidad en su diversidad. 

En este sentido, el territorio entreteje lo humano y lo sagrado, en una relación de reciprocidad.  El signo del sepulcro vacío, es el signo del Dios viviente. Un Dios para acogerlo en la vida. Él está por ahí, en cualquier parte, donde la vida pulula.

Él habita los contrastes de la creación.

Está dentro de los sueños de belleza y en cada opción por un amor más grande. 

Está en la fuerza de la pequeña semilla que se asoma desde abajo para mirar el mundo. 

Está en el arte insurrecto que abrazan las realidades para desdibujar fronteras.

Está en la re-existencia de tantas mujeres que paren y amamantan procesos transformadores para hacer amanecer una geopolítica de la esperanza.  

Él vive en los buscadores de nuevos amaneceres sociales, políticos, culturales, económicos, ecológicos, para nuestros pueblos. 

Vive en los relatos socioterritoriales emancipadores, que dignifican la existencia.

Vive en las relaciones que subvierten nuestros sentipensares para habitar el territorio desde la sorofratenidad.

Vive en la Vida Religiosa empoderada que cree en su ser, saber, quehacer, que camina con otras y otras, siendo Buena Noticia, en cada aurora de la humanidad.

Vive en la construcción del Reino, en los dones y carismas puestos al servicio de la projimidad.  

Vive en los territorios que son comensalía abierta para nuestros pueblos, porque ellos son el lugar sagrado de la vida.

Vive en este relato de la pascua narrado por mujeres que han corazonado la fe y que hoy llega a nosotras/os para hacernos recomenzar la vida con alegría. ¡Porque él está aquí! ¡Ha resucitado!

Él vive en el mandato de volver al ajetreo de las Galileas, donde la vida cotidiana nos espera para cuidar la comunidad de vida, desde el alba hasta el ocaso.

El Título del artículo es inspirado en la reflexión sobre el Horizonte Inspirador de la CLAR 2022-2025. Las mujeres del Alba (Mc 28, 1-10).

[1] Es Religiosa de la Congregación de Hermanas de la Divina Voluntad. Pertenece a la Comunidad Indígena “Pastos y Quillacingas”, ubicada en el Departamento de Nariño-Colombia. Ha realizado estudios de Ciencias Religiosas, Catequética, Teología, Pedagogía y Docencia Universitaria. Hace parte del ETAP y de la Comisión de Vida Religiosa Indígena de la CLAR; y del Grupo de Investigación, Pensamiento Social de la Iglesia, de la Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Ha compartido la mayor parte de su vida y misión con niños, adolescentes y jóvenes en espacios fronterizos. 

My Grandmother’s Braids 

The Pedagogy of Ancestral Memory in Faith and Resistance

Growing up I was fascinated with my grandmother’s long hair. Her hair was not only an extension of herself but the physical manifestation of her thoughts and the strong connection of care and resistance. If someone asked why she has long hair, she always answered, “Women are beautiful with our long black hair; we need to take care of ourselves.” I have memories of my grandmother braiding early in the morning and every night before she went to bed. She braided her hair while she prayed and, other times, sang. Her long braids transmitted to me her womanism while at the same time showing the ancestral roots to a traditional way of living for native women in Abya Yala.

My grandmother Candelaria was born between mountains, a generation of native people in the land for millennials. She was born in February, the month of rain and the time for carnival. Her face was beautiful; wrinkled, long hair and small eyes, her face always filled me with magic. She was proud of her gray hair because she said it resulted from age and wisdom. She was a weaver and farmer, so her hands were rough, cracked, and deep. She works with her hand, which were connected to the land; our ancestral motherland took care of her.

My grandmother raised seven children; she became a widow a month after her seventh child was born. She faced challenges and efforts to raise her children and feed them. Grandma was grateful for life; although hard and painful, she knew how to survive and thrive. As part of the native population, with no access to education, the church was one of the few places she was welcomed and encouraged to learn. At the age of 30, through the church she learned how to read and read her Bible daily for everyone to hear. She sincerely believed in God, who brought her freedom and renovated her spirit. 

But who taught my grandmother how to braid her hair? When did it begin? My grandmother must have learned from her mother and grandmothers. Recognizing the story of their lives and care from one generation to the next is our great value. This is perhaps the school of life, full of memories and affection for learning from one age to the next. But seeing firsthand is one way to learn by example. For this reason, I feel very connected to my grandmother in the magical and ancestral relationship between us—a legacy of how to take care of each other.

I wanted to learn more because I remember stories from elders that mentioned that all native women and men were not allowed to have long hair. Interested in digging into this past I read more about the history of colonization and the cruel consequences to the native population.

During the invasion and subsequent colonization, oppressors cut native men and women’s hair. That tragedy, even for centuries, broke that harmonious relationship in Abya Yala. In our native land, my ancestors suffered genocide, slavery, and rape of their bodies and hair. Colonization was a rupture between mothers to daughters, fathers to sons, and entire communities were destroyed. The hair of men and women was cut as a sign of enslavement, powerlessness, and humiliation. To look more like the colonizer, look like a “human being,” something that the oppressor perceived as “civilized.” This was a tragic event for us. It took many centuries for the native population to regain the right to bodily autonomy. Resistance was a way of living.

For this reason, in native communities still present today, the tradition of women having long hair is very much present. Through hair, native women show power in self-care and practicing ancestral traditions. Tying hair into braids has become a symbol of resistance against colonization in the last centuries.

Braid is the intertwining of three strands of hair, crossing them alternately with each other and tightening them; it is linked to the life of humanity. That’s how my grandmother combed her long hair and braids. It was a form of identity, ancestral memory, protection, and resistance. This is why she braids her hair, to make them strong.

Between my grandmother and me, there is more than a century of history. How can I continue my grandmother’s ancestral memory and pedagogy?

In the last years, my hair has grown, and I comb and braid it daily. Her presence draws close to me every time I braid my hair. I remember my grandmother with joy every day. As we can read in the Bible: “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:111)

The last time I talked with my grandmother was a week before she passed away at 90. When we spoke, she recited several passages from the Bible, and I sang several songs together. I listened to her happily from a distance (we were in the midst of the first wave of COVID-19); I could hear her on the phone. I learned from my grandmother about our family history, which has prepared me to understand my life, faith, and courage to speak up and write about womanism, decolonization and the importance of ancestral memory. Her story and strength are passed from generation to generation. Still, DNA carries its entire history; that main story of survival, care, and resistance we learn seeing our grandmothers practicing is a better example of faith. 

I remember my grandmother as a womanist, elder and healer. Her faith and memories accompanies in my daily walk, reflections and every night as I braid my hair grandma ancestral memory is alive.

Cosmovivencias nutridas en las fuentes ancestrales 

Por Sofía Chipana Quispe

Para muchos pueblos andinos el pasado tiene que ver con el amuyu, que es la comprensión de la vida, desde la que leemos nuestras historias transgresoras que buscaron una y otra vez, la sanación de los territorios tierras y los territorios cuerpos, pues comprendieron que sus cuerpos violentados por la imposición del sistema colonial tenían la posibilidad de incorporarse, invocando a las fuerzas vitales que hacen posible el restablecimiento del equilibrio y armonía en la Pacha, cosmos. 

Buscando hacer la conexión con la fuerza de la espiral como principio de vida, en estos tiempos se entretejen las espiritualidades con los hilos rotos y quemados, pues implica el despojo de lo impuesto y asumido de la religión colonizante. Aunque, se plantea la transformación religiosa en Los Andes, y desde las miradas sociales y religiosas son asignadas como parte de un proceso sincrético. Sin embargo, será pertinente considerar que tanto la extirpación y la sustitución que fueron métodos usados en la evangelización, “yuxtapuso una imagen sobre otra y se revirtieron los significados de la creencia de participación en la cosmología de origen”[i], por lo tanto, no se trata de un sincretismo como tal, pues mucho de lo que se considera como sincrético responde a prácticas religiosas del catolicismo popular. 

Por ello, más que formular la vigencia de religiones andinas y sincretismos, en diversas organizaciones de pueblos andinos se plantean el camino de las espiritualidades, haciendo la diferencia entre religión y espiritualidad, a fin de salir del tutelaje cristiano. Esos recorridos implican, como diría Gustavo Gutiérrez beber del propio pozo, que son las sabidurías ancestrales que aún se cultivan en los diversos pueblos andinos, como se evoca en la invitación profunda de un quipu (escrito inka basado en nudos): 

Cuando naces, eres una cuerda sin anudar,

eres Pacha (cosmos), totalidad tiempo y espacio,

el gran vacío se va llenando

de pequeños amarres

que van creciendo con tus palabras,

y tus faenas

y cada cierto tiempo debes realizar un Kuti (vuelta)

un enlace dentro de ti mismo

solamente así podrás volver a ser

el mismo que naciste[ii].

El fragmento de las palabras sabias anudadas por el kipukamoy (el que elabora y hace hablar los kipus), reconoce que, para estar en pleno vínculo con la ancestralidad, implica hacer un kuti, un retorno, hacía al taypi, el tiempo de la armonización donde la vida empieza a germinar, reconectándonos con la qamasa, la fuerza vital, para seguir siendo cosmos. 

Para muchos pueblos, el tiempo del Kuti, es “la inversión, la vuelta, regreso, restitución, retorno, revolución o transformación”[iii], por lo tanto, es la vuelta a un tiempo de pleno vínculo con el cosmos (Pacha), lo que para la cosmogonía Maya el 2012 ha sido el fin del quinto mundo, y el inicio de un ciclo nuevo que trae sus propias transformaciones, del mismo modo los pueblos andinos se sostienen en las narrativas de los fines y nacimiento de mundos, a fin de que la comunidad humana desate los nudos heredados en las relaciones desiguales y de dominación que se extienden hacía las otras comunidades de vivientes, provocando el desequilibrio en el cosmos. 

Se trata de un tiempo de sanación que procura restablecer el equilibrio y la armonía en el cosmos habitado, para seguir despertando a los diversos saberes y sabidurías desde la conciencia cósmica, pues hay realidades y situaciones que no se comprenden sólo desde los sentipensares humanos/as, se requiere la relación de mutualidad, de escucha y observación del ritmo de las otras y otros seres del Ayllu, como serán las montañas, cumbres nevadas, los ríos, los bosques, las lagunas, las semillas; o de los seres vinculadas a las fuentes vitales como el cóndor, el puma, la serpiente, la llama.

Sabidurías evocadas a su vez, en las resistencias que implicaron sublevaciones, en la que los/as líderes fueron vinculadas a las serpientes, denominadas como amarus o kataris, asociadas a las fuerzas telúricas, por lo que sus cuerpos desmembrados buscan reconstituirse en la organización y luchas de los pueblos andinos. 

Por otra parte, no se puede obviar las resistencias cultivadas por las mujeres, que incluso estando fuera de sus territorios de origen, se han negado a dejar sus identidades desde la recreación de los ropajes impuestos, conservando los idiomas, la alimentación, los tejidos, los rituales, el cuido de la vida, el vínculo con los territorios de origen, y que, desde el acuerpamiento con otras mujeres, sostienen los sentidos de su vida, de sus familias y sus comunidades. 

Sofía Chipana Quispe

Principal voz de la teología indígena en Abya Yala, valora la vida digna y sagrada con la tierra y el respeto por todas las formas de vida. Ha trabajado con redes dedicadas a la reflexión teológica y la articulación de saberes, sabidurías y espiritualidades. Es miembro de la Comunidad de Sabias y Teólogas Indígenas de Abya Yala y de la Comunidad Teológica Andina que fomenta el diálogo entre los pueblos andinos. 

Abya Yala Theology

Decolonizing the Christian message from a native perspective

By Yenny Delgado and Claudio Ramirez

Abya Yala theology assumes a contextual, historical, and ancestral reflection, which is the axis of our theological proposal. The name comes from the Guna language and means “land in full maturity and land of vital blood.” The Guna people inhabit the meeting points of the north and south geographically, to represent the connectivity of the lands. In the 1970s, the term Abya Yala was adopted by many activists, historians, politicians, and theologians as the unified name instead of using North America (primarily English speakers) and Latin America (primarily Spanish and Portuguese speakers)  that perpetuate colonial divisions.

Abya Yala theology rescues our ancestors’ traditions, reflections, and actions in a continent that continues to resist the ravages of a colonizing process. Abya Yala theology does not propose a return to ancestral life before colonization. However, we aim to respect and embrace indigenous practices and keep our native languages, traditional culture, ancestral knowledge, and spiritual practices alive.

As a prophetic theology, it comes from the subjectivities of women and men, whose mouths no longer pronounce fluently the language of our ancestors, where our bodies no longer move freely to the rhythm of the ancestral drums, and where our prayer no longer rises to the same mountains. But our ancestral memories as native descendants continue to tie us to living wisdom and spirituality in their depth.

The development of Abya Yala Theology is reframing the Christian message grounded in the people and not power, grounded in ancestry, not acclaim, and grounded in historical context, not in silence. The main component of Abya Yala theology is Christian thought analyzed through a decolonizing lens and embracing a multicultural and multiethnic continent, from which God speaks and liberates all from colonized oppression.

Abya Yala Theology is decolonizing the Christian message from a native perspective. We propose interrelated and interpretive categories that help us see a new way of thinking of God from Abya Yala. The first category is motherland and identity, the process of ethnic identity for native people, and its theological scope to recognize our connection with the land where we live today. The second is the reflection of the descent through the history of invisibility, forced assimilation, and division between inventing borders where the native’s and descendants’ resistance is latent.

Identity and the resurrection of the motherland

Inextricably linked with colonial and settler thinking is the vision of land and nature as a resource that exists only for extractive purposes. However, understanding Abya Theology is reimagining the harmonious relationship between the land, their children, and all creation. Abya Yala refers to land as alive and of vital blood and maturity. This terminology implies two things that can be interpreted; it is a land maturity of our motherland that grows and produces food for their children; at the same time, native peoples maintain the ways of understanding the world in holistic ways. On the other hand, the land of vital blood means it is a connection between the native peoples; it implies that the descendants who suffer colonization struggle to assimilate to the European culture established to erase all ways to connect with our ancestors.

The theological implications of this conception of Abya Yala lead us to reflect on where we are, from our geographical location, and our historical context. In this way, Abya Yala must be understood as a motherland that has been the victim of a  hegemonic , patriarchal and colonialist historical process that violated and divided the land into pieces, separating the children into strangers.

For this reason, ethnic identity is essential because it makes visible what was hidden. The denial of our ancestry as the children of Abya Yala is a source of pain and confusion. However, taking seriously the liberating process of a Christian message of God who heals all wounds, restores, and who, above all, after the crucifixion, resurrects – provides hope. Here we are the native people and descendants have been crucified for centuries under colonization, control, oppression, and genocide; today, we, as a believer of the message, witness the resurrection of the motherland and all their children.

The Jesuit and priest Jon Sobrino provide some insight on this when speaking about the resurrection, bringing hope for the crucified, which is a new interpretation for us. “If what has been said so far is taken seriously, it follows, not from a fundamentalist reading of the texts, but from a profound honesty towards them, that the resurrection of Jesus is hope in the first place for the crucified. God raised a crucified, and since then, there is hope for the crucified of history.” Sobrino leaves us a message that needs to be adapted to respond to our context and confirm that natives and their descendants in Abya Yala received God’s protection and hope. It is the one who resurrects and liberates us from a long process of colonization and oppression.

Decolonizing the Christian message

Christianity arrived in Abya Yala over five centuries ago; European soldiers, settlers, and missionaries brought the cross and sword to rule and order our land. The implications of colonization and Christianity on the native population led to a sizable reduction of people and loss of languages and cultures in efforts to assimilate into a normative European Christianity. This reductionist teaching removed any aspects of the liberating message inherent in the message of Christ. In this way, the Christian faith has become synonymous with oppression and colonization. However, the attempts to forget the colonization atrocities of Abya Yala, slavery, genocide, and stolen land have made us remain silent.

It is clear then that all theological reflection in Abya Yala must go through an honest and historical review to respond and give a liberating and hopeful message to the original population that is still in resistance. In a story similar to magical realism, in recent years, the attempts to forget this past have been even more painful and oppressive for the descendant who still has this whole process alive in our ancestral memory.

The genocide has caused a massive gap in identity and recognition without understanding our ethnic and identity self-identification. We still carry colonizing practices from political and religious activities; any attempt at self-affirmation is now the subject of biased analysis. The native population and their descendants face enormous challenges in keeping their ancestral culture, language, and spiritualities alive at this time, for which a theology from and as Abya Yala is more necessary.

What role should Abya Yala theology play in this context? Abya Yala theology decolonizes the Christian message from a native perspective. We reclaim our full humanity in our land, which is the sacred and living space of our motherland.


Yenny Delgado– Psychologist and Theologian. Director of Publica and convener of Mujeres Doing Theology in Abya Yala. She writes about the intersections between ancestral memory, decolonization, womanist, and public faith. Currently, she is a Ph.D candidate in Psychology of Religion at the University of Lausanne.

Claudio Ramirez -Theologian with a master’s degree in Dogmatic Theology from the Catholic University of Córdoba, Argentina. Founder of Ñawi intercultural dialogue. He writes about eco-theology, indigenous spirituality, and liberation. Currently, he is a professor of theology at the Catholic University of Salta.