Contemporary World History Paper
Maria Jose Oomen Liebers
The New Bolivian Nation of Evo Morales
Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, is also one of the most diverse. This diversity can be attributed to the complex past of pre-colonial diversity of indigenous groups, and the addition of colonialism and post-colonialism elements. If adivision and categorization must be defined, the Bolivian population consists of three groups: the indigenous group, mestizos, which have both indigenous and European descent, and whites of European descent. Due to inter-mixing among the various groups, a clear-cut definition of what proportions of the population belong to each group is ambiguous; however one can be drawn on the basis of individualchoice and identity. The latest population census found that fifty-five percent of the population identify themselves as indigenous, a thirty percent identify themselves as mestizos and final fifteen percent as white-European.
The election of Evo Morales as the first “indigenous” president of Bolivia in 2005, is considered the beginning of an era of reform for Bolivia, where the majority ofpopulation identifying themselves as indigenous, will be protagonists rather than spectators in the construction of a new, ‘improved Bolivia.
The newly approved Constitution characterizes Bolivia as a pluri-national state, recognising the thirty six main indigenous groups and their rights. However despite this diversity, recent policies and events suggest the attempt by Evo Morales to unify theindigenous groups across Bolivia, laying the grounds and promoting the construction of a unifying indigenous national identity based on the principles of a common history of exclusion and exploitation, united in antagonism with the traditional elite groups. This paper will analyse the undergoing process of nation-building in Bolivia. In order provide a coherent explanation based on historical causes,first a historical background of both the pre-colonial and colonial eras and their significance will be provided. Next a description of contemporary developments and the national indigenous movements leading to the election of Evo Morales, culminating in the current construction f a national indigenous identity, reinforcing self-sufficiency and sovereignty of the indigenous people through politicalparticipation, rights, and greater access to resources.
Bolivia: Past to Present
In order to explain the current developments of nation-building taking place in Bolivia, it is necessary to make reference to the main historical causes, which lead to these developments. According to Newall (2005) the notion of causality in history is very different from that of science, since “the causal chainis rendered far more complex by the involvement of the human factor”. (p.5) However, it is possible to identify necessary causes in history; according to the same author “a necessary cause in historical investigation is one such that without it subsequent actions would make no sense”, (p.5) This paper identifies only some of necessary causes of the current developments in Bolivia:
Thepre-colonial and colonial legacies
The post-colonial policies of exclusion and continued exploitation of the indigenous groups in Bolivia
The indigenous mobilizations and protests of the last fifty years
The pre-colonial and colonial legacies
The territory that today constitutes Bolivia, was in pre-colonial times inhabited by a wide diversity of competing indigenous groups: the main onesbeing the Incas, also known as Quechua, who conquered the Aymara in the Andean highlands, while the Eastern lowlands were inhabited mainly by the Chiriguanos and Guaraníes. ( Klein, 2003) Present-day Bolivia is characterized by the persistence of much of the culture, language and identity inherited from this period.
From the end of the twelfth century, during the Incan conquest and until...