Suma Qamaña

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"Discussion has diversified on the implications of Good Living (Buen_Vivir). It is appropriate to begin a review of the Bolivian contributions on suma qamaña.

Some of its most enthusiastic supporters, such as Xavier Albó, argue that the best interpretation should be the good life in community or "good convivial living". It is a complex concept as the result of input from analysts like Simón Yampara, Mario Torres or Javier Medina. It is linked directly to a full experience, austere but diverse, including both material and emotional components, where no one is excluded, as Javier Medina says. In the same direction the aymara philosopher Simón Yampara (2001) points out that more than material wealth, "harmony between the material and the spiritual" is sought as a "comprehensive wellness / holistic and in harmony with life”. It is a position that has a touch of austerity, in that the goal is to live well, and this should not mean living better at the expense of others or the environment (Albó 2009).

Suma qamaña operates in a special social, environmental and territorial context, represented by the Andean ayllu, as discussed in detail by Torrez (2001). It is a space of well-being with people, animals and crops. There is no duality that separates society from Nature, since one contains the other and they are inseparable complementarities.

Along with the particular emphasis that different social actors give to suma qamaña, there is also a debate on the adequacy of the concept. For example, the aymara intellectual Pablo Mamani Ramirez (2010) believes it is an inadequate approach, and at least two other words should be added: qamiri and qapha. With this he seeks to explain more emphases, such as the "richness of life" in both material and spiritual aspects, self dignity and welfare, and a good heart. For these reasons, Mamani begins by postulating that qamir qamaña is the sweetness of "being still", which reclaims a life style in the face of the imposition of colonial styles of western development.

The Guarani's use of ñande reko (which translates as a way of being), is currently included within Good Life. It expresses a number of virtues such as freedom, happiness, celebration in the community, reciprocity and invitation, and others. All these are articulated in a constant search for "land without evil", which is supported by both the past and the future (see for example the contributions of Bartolomeu Meliá in Medina, 2002).

Not only are there several contributions re Good Life, and varieties in each of them, but even some of their origins are in question. For this reason, Uzeda (2009) asks "whether we can consider sum qamaña a legitimate indigenous reference, genuine or a postmodern invention of Aymara intellectuals of the 21st century (that are still indigenous)". Their response acknowledges that this concept, in the formulation discussed above, is not part of the everyday language or the local representatives of Aymara communities, but then warn that this idea, as "part of a recreation and cultural innovation is no longer indigenous and can, in turn, be appropriated, 'carved'" into an indigenous identity.

This is precisely one of the positive characteristics of Good Living, since trends such as suma qamaña would not be a return to the past but the construction of a future that is different from that determined by conventional development. Its various expressions, whether old or new, original or the product of different hybridizations, open the door to another path.

But as has become clear, any of these are manifestations of Good Living are specific to a particular culture, language, history and social, political and ecological context. You can not take, for example, the idea of sumak kawsay of Ecuadorian Kichwa to transplant it as a recipe for good living that can be applied across all of Latin America. Likewise, neither can you convert or reformat Modernity into a postmodern version of Good Life. As Medina (2011) warns, there is no room here for simplifications such as thinking of the ayllu as a collective farm, or of the indigenous as proletarian.

We must also be alert to other simplifications: Living Well is not restricted to Andean sumak qamaña or sumak kawsay. Similar ideas are found with other peoples, and just by way of example we can cite the shiir waras, the good life of the Ecuadorian Achuar, understood as a domestic peace policy and a harmonious life, including a state of balance with Nature (Descola, 1996). Or the küme mongen, the “living well in harmony” of the Mapuche of southern Chile. Beyond indigenous peoples cases can also be cited for multiethnic and non indigenous groupings. For example, in the so-called "Cambas of the Amazon forest” in northern Bolivia, the product of more than 150 years of meetings and cultural mixing, they defend the "quiet life" with an emphasis on safety, welfare and happiness from an identity closely tied to the jungle (Henkemans, 2003)." (