Bolivia: The Indomestizo victory

Andres Soliz Rada

In my book La Concienca Enclaustrada written in 1995 [1] I noted that two of the most important exponents of Latin American anti-imperialist thought, the Argentine, Jorge Abelardo Ramos, and the Bolivian, Augusto Cespedes, did not fully comprehend the enormous revolutionary potential of the indigenous peoples of Bolivia.

I backed up my point of view with this quote from Ramos: "… the indigenous peoples of today have no other path to take towards their own economic progress and personal dignity, except by incorporating into Latin American civilisation as it is now" [2]. In turn, Cespedes wrote these certainly lamentably lines: "… between descendents from the Spanish, be they from the peninsular or criollos, we should not question ourselves for the deaths of a million, more or less, Indians" [3]. The reference is obviously talking about Spanish conquest.

To complete my analysis, I added the following: "The prior quotes lack balance if, at the same time, the contributions by Ramos to visionary Bolivarian thought and by Cespedes to the comprehension of the oligarchies, allied to the centres of world power, are not recognised" [4].

A new focus on the history of Bolivia

In this context, in response to the oligarchic, indigenist and nationalist visions of the history of Bolivia, we proposed including in the debate an indomestiza vision, which, "as opposed to traditional nationalism, rescues the potentials of those peoples oppressed for five centuries by internal and external colonialism, without denying, through mestizaje, Western or European contributions". We emphasized that, from our point of view, the mestizo has no biological weight, given the inexistence of pure racial groups in any part of the world, the reason why we prefer cultural connotations to terms such as mestizo, Quechua, Aymara, Guarani, white, criollo or Amazonic. Faced with globalisation and the homogenisation imposed by neoliberalism, this cultural awakening is transforming itself into a molecular resistance against subjugation by the global centres of power" [5].

The revolution of 1952, by decreeing the abolition of "pongueaje" (servants of clods) and the universal vote, for men and women, signified a qualitative change in this difficult struggle against social exclusion. This exclusion characterised the foundation of the republic in 1825, when in the Constituent Assembly, 90% of the population was not represented, due to not having sufficient patrimony or for having copper-coloured skin.

Palenque and Felipe Quispe

In 1988, , in the thousand year old city of Tiwanacu, 100 kilometers from the city of La Paz, the radio presenter Carlos Palenque Aviles founded the entity known as Conciencia de Patria (CONDEPA, Conscious of the Homeland), which, after important electoral advances in the west of the country, disappeared from the electoral scene in 2002, due to, amongst other factors, the premature death of its founder, as well as its vacillations in executing an anti-imperialist line and not eradicating all acts of corruption. Nevertheless, it continues to remain significant that, today, a chola (the word used in Bolivia to refer to a women in a pollera [traditional dress], bilingual, mestiza, of Quechua or Aymara origins), Silvia Lazarte, presides the Constituent Assembly, an event that has as its antecedent that of another woman of the pollera, Remedio Loza Alvarado, would have succeeded Palenque in the leadership of CONDEPA and converted herself into the first woman of this social standing to be a candidate for the presidency of the republic and the first deputy in a pollera in the national parliament.

In the first few months of this millennium emerged the vigorous figure of Felipe Quispe Huanca, who lead the Confederacion Sindical Unica de Trabajadores Campesinos (CSUTCB, Sole Union Confederation of Campesino Workers) and founded his party, the Movimiento Indigena Pachcutec (MIP, Patchakuti Indigenous Movement). With both instruments, he headed blockades, for weeks on end, of the cities of La Paz and El Alto, raising ethnic slogans and the refoundation of Tawantinsuyo. However, his verbal extremism and the ethical misconduct of its leader and those around him lead to a lose of supporters.

Evo and the social movements

You could say that the propositions of CONDEPA, which concentrated on the demands of the cholaje mestizo, were insufficient for the social movements and the indigenous peoples, as much as those of Felipe Quispe’s MIP were too excessive to be assimilated by the entirety of the country.

This void has been filled, since 1993, by the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS, Movement Towards Socialism), of Evo Morales Ayma, who, without dropping the demands of the indigenous peoples - accumulated over five centuries – has harmonised these propositions with the urgency to refound a new unity, sovereign Bolivia, capable of defending and industrialising its natural resources and insert himself into the Bolivarian postulates, which Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez Frias, has also made his own.

MAS is a reality, but it is also a hope that could be frustrated.

For that not to occur, it needs to learn from the errors of others, that is to say, it must not abandon a staunch anti-imperialist line, it must be firm in the struggle against corruption and not forget that it is the head of an oppressed nation, which unites patriotic military personnel, national business owners, professionals, artisans and students, white and mestizo, who are prepared to make sure that this time the Bolivian National Revolution, which has so many times before been frustrated, consolidates itself under the leadership of Evo Morales, a leader of Aymara origin, and the hegemony of the social movements and the indigenous peoples, who are prepared to articulate their own demands with those of the entirety of the country, of course, which the exception of those who prefer to serve the foreign colonisers. This would be Bolivia’s profound contribution to Latin American socialism, which is constructed in opposition to ecocide, militarisation, war and the massacres that contemporary “civilisers” carry out.

Andres Soliz Rada, is a writer and journalist and, until recently, Minister for Hydrocarbons in Bolivia, He has been part of the Izquierda Nacional since the 1960s. He was a promoter of the nationalisation of petroleum under Ovando Candia, supported J.J. Torres, was part of CONDEPA, a member of parliament and was called upon by Evo Morales to join his cabinet, despite not being a member of MAS.

Translated from Revista Politica No 1. pp. 7-11



[1] Andres Soliz Rada: La Conciencia Enclaustrada. Editorial Contemporanea. La Paz, Bolivia, p.21

[2] La Patria Grande – America Latina newspaper. Ano X111. No 66. Buenos Aires, Argentina. December 1994

[3] Augusto Cespedes: “Glosas al Descubrimiento y la Conquista” in Presencia newspaper, Presencia Literaria supplement

[4] ASR: ibid, p. 21

[5] ASR: ibid, p. 25

1 comment:

Jerry Gefner said...

Bolivia has shown an articulated Campesino policy which Paraguay and Brazil should look very closely.

The Land Reform Movements in Family Agriculture and Campesino using Extractive Agriculture is a contributing factor to alleviate poverty in the rural sector.

Bolvia is working very closely to develop a long term sustainable agricultural program for the Campesinos integraded with the environment and ecology.