The intercultural approach points to the recognition of the coexistence of cultural diversities in modern societies. These different cultures are forced to coexist while showing respect towards their different approaches to the world, human rights and their rights as peoples. In terms of their development in a global environment, the concern about interculturality is linked to the increasing importance of diversity and identity issues, in the framework of development, which has gradually exceeded its sole dependency on variables linked to socioeconomic aspects.
These advances have led to the universalization of economic, social and cultural rights. From this perspective and principles, it becomes a legitimate imperative that indigenous and Afro-descendant communities are part, in an equalitarian way, of modern citizenship, which must be inclusive with particular ways of thinking and acting that define the identity of diverse regions. This identity is based on multiple and varied specific identities which, far from constituting a difficulty or a problem –as it has usually been considered–, contribute with many growth and development possibilities following intercultural integration and social cohesion (Bello and Rangel, 2002).
Furthermore, it is also relevant to mention the concepts of race and ethnicity, present in the discussion about interculturality, and which have to be especially taken into account when working with the Afro-descendant population. Indeed, the race concept was created to justify the phenotypical differences between human beings. This notion refers to the taxonomic division of humans based on their biological, morphological and physiological differences. Historically, we define race as the division of human groups according to remarkable physical features that can be differentiated on plain sight. The term has also been used to refer to the lineage or the bloodline of descendants linked to a common ancestry.
Another important aspect is the relationship between race and ethnicity, where the concept of race has gained strength throughout modern history to identify a people, ethnical group or cultural minority. However, in the 20th century, once the evil effects of racism were determined, the notion was abandoned and replaced by ethnicity.
Likewise, the term ethnicity refers to a people or community sharing their culture, history, land, and a set of practices, and its members are linked by their conscience of identity, manifesting through a determined behavior, their language, their Cosmovision, a specific dress code, their social organization, and their institutions.
MULTICULTURALITY IS NOT THE SAME AS INTERCULTURALITY
The concepts multiculturality and interculturality have often been mixed up. However, there are significant differences between them, both in the context and regarding their contents. Multiculturalism emerged in the later sixties, mainly in countries like Canada and the USA (Muñoz, 2001; Reyna, 2007), and distinguishes itself by referring to a set of demands by minority groups. Their demands mainly point to legal and education issues.
The concept intends to make visible the de facto cultural diversity already existing in contemporary societies; that’s why the concept is primarily descriptive.
Interculturality, in contrast, appeared towards the late sixties both in Europe and Latin America. While in the Old continent the issue was related to the increasing arrival of immigrants, in Latin America, interculturality was related to the claims for the cultural and political recognition of indigenous and Afro-descendant groups the region. Thus, while multiculturality refers to the existence of a diversity of cultural groups in a specific society, interculturality seeks the interaction between two or more cultural groups. Ultimately, interculturality puts an emphasis in the dialogue, the interaction, and the relationship, even of groups not sharing the same State (Reyna, 2007).