Bolivia: The Crime of Indigenous Insubordination


Bolivia today lives under the most cruel and appalling xenophobic dictatorship of masters whose demented pride has been wounded. If you haven’t already seen it, watch this video.

It happened on the 24th of May, in Sucre, the capital of Bolivia and crucible of the failed attempt at Bolivian mestizaje.

Those who believed that ignorant racism was a bitter memory in Bolivia were wrong.  White Bolivia, created and ruled by masters, was and is essentially anti-Indian.  In 1825, the masters founded the Republic of Bolivia in the House of Liberty in the city of Sucre, excluding and subordinating indigenous peoples.  Almost two centuries later, last week in front of the same mythical House, before TV cameras, they flogged insubordinate indigenous brothers.  It was a macabre act that symbolizes the ethnophagic essence of official white Bolivia.

Given this situation, several questions arise.  Where is the state, the monopoly of legitimate force?  Will it be completely weakened in Bolivia?  And if that’s the case, what is the government of Compañero Evo Morales to do if there is no longer a state to manage?  Or could it be that xenophobic violence of masters today is tolerated by the state so that its opponents would defeat themselves? These are questions that the government must answer.  But the urgent question is: Why does white Bolivia hate Indians so much?  There are many answers to this question.

They hate us because we are the mirror that reflects their failure and their historic defeat.  They had nearly two centuries since the founding of Bolivia to build a “modern” and mestizo Bolivian nation, according to their interests and aspirations, but they failed morally and intellectually.  Today, Bolivia is not “modern,” nor is it mestizo.  In two centuries of governing, they created only a kleptomaniac bureaucracy that squandered the country.

They copied educational reforms and compulsory military services and used the state to promote public policy to destroy our cultures, but they failed even in this.  Now, as never before, Bolivian diversity bewilders them even in their bedrooms.  Our presence pains them for it reminds them of their almost innate sterility, their impotence to achieve their aspirations.

They suffer from chronic anomie (lack of identity) in the face of multiple and dynamic indigenous identities that are affirming themselves everywhere.  They suffer from profound existential insecurity because they can no longer affirm themselves by negating and annihilating the different, the Other. This pathological insecurity unleashes xenophobic behaviors in them.  But with these attitudes the only thing they gain is national and international repudiation.  Thus they are caught in the maelstrom of solitude.

They flog our brothers in public squares, as they flogged our fathers and grandfathers to death, because our presence reminds them of their schizophrenic reality.  They dream of being Western, but indigenous genes run in their blood.  They long to practice liberal morality, but their weak will pushes them to the vices of Indians whom they hate so much.  They suffer from profound cultural schizophrenia: always hating what they are and dreaming about what they are not.  They are unhappy wretches who don’t even know who they are, much less have a clear vision of Bolivia as a country, nor have they ever had one.  It pains them to go down in the history of Bolivia as vile moral and intellectual failures.  It pains them that from now on criminals will no longer pass for national heroes in history.

It is demonstrated that the indigenous people are what they could not be: the bastion of the Bolivian identity in the making.  We have defended and recovered the natural resources and dignity of the people against multinational corporations, monsters to whom the masters of white Bolivia prostituted themselves.  Our achievements for Bolivia pain them because they demonstrate their fateful failure.  So they humiliated our brothers in front of their House of Liberty.

The flogging that our fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters endure pains our soul, but it’s a productive pain because it keeps and will keep alive our fruitful and subversive historical memory.  Together with our unburied dead who roam the fertile Bolivian lands demanding justice, we will fight till we restore dignity to the life without dignity to which they condemned us.  We were not born only to die trying, nor have we risen only to surrender at dawn.

Jubenal Quispe is a lawyer, theologian, and writer in Spanish and Quechua.   He is a university lecturer and researcher at the Maryknoll Center in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  The original article in Spanish was published in Bolpress on 30 May 2008.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at]

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