This project is a comparative exploration of the connection between descriptive representation and the substantive and symbolic representation of ethnic minorities: do Afro and indigenous representatives effectively “stand for” group members by introducing identity and empowering descriptive constituents? Featuring reserved seats for both minority groups, Colombia is an ideal case. In combination, the institutional design of reserved seats and the tradition of mestizaje and racial democracy add complexity to analyzing these populations. Consequently, in order to assess minority representation this work adds to extant representational theory by taking into account the crystallization of minority constituencies across elections.
I use quantitative and qualitative data to comparatively assess the use of reserved seats for integrating minority identity to the deliberative process and measuring empowerment impacts for minority-majority municipalities. This data includes an original dataset of electoral outcomes across seven cycles (1990-2010) and transcripts of congressional plenaries spanning three legislative periods (2002-2014). I take into account constituency dynamics identifying the concentration and geographical sources of votes in minority districts. These outcomes translate to expectations of representative behavior, hinging on the theoretical belief that constituency dynamics act as signals of legislator accountability to minority constituents.
This dissertation is located at the intersection of the comparative politics literature on minority quotas and representation, on one hand, and ethno-racial minority politics in Latin America, on the other. I find that ongoing electoral reforms have impacted constituency outcomes in post-reform cycles. More importantly, I observe that reserved representatives from both groups have integrated identity into deliberative processes often, but that only in the case of indigenous representation has the use of identity in plenaries been responsive to constituency variables. In addition, empowerment effects are identified in indigenous-majority communities that have strong linkages to minority districts, while the same empowerment cannot be conclusively identified in Afro-majority communities.