Many indigenous leaders and intellectuals in the region are asking themselves how the current rapid spread of free market principles and the process of integration into a single world economy is likely to affect their cultures. The answer depends on what we mean by "culture" and what we mean by "modernity". Cultures are not rigid sets of traditional norms and values, but instead have a deep-seated logic and a whole constellation of alternative processes which, like constantly evolving computer programmes, give each culture considerable flexibility and capacity to adapt to changes in its environment. Modernity, in turn, should mean tolerance and an appreciation of diversity. The proposals put forward by ECLAC regarding competitiveness, current uses of knowledge and the indispensable element of social equity provide guidelines that can help indigenous peoples, once they have been allowed to assume their role as recognized social actors, to make use of the advantages and sidestep the pitfalls of their situation as this century nears its end.