EDITORIAL BY Caroline Risacher
Bolivia is a paradox. It’s one of the richestlands in South America (with vast depositsof lithium, silver, tin, natural gas and more),and it’s also one of the continent’s poorestnations, with extreme income inequality. Dueto Bolivia’s varied climate and topography – from the arid altiplano to the dense rainforests of the Amazon and thedry forests of the Chaco – its plant and animal diversityis unmatched. But for the Bolivian people, these naturalresources have turned out to be both a blessing and acurse.
This curse materialised with the 16th-century arrival of the Spaniards, who tried to homogenise and dilute the diversityof indigenous identities in order to exploit these resources.This continued until recently as the criolla upper classreinvented Bolivian identity upon the central notion ofbeing mestizo, and indigenous people were thwartedunder the assimilatory and reductive term of campesino.
Since 2006 and the election of the current president,Evo Morales (the first indigenous president in the history of Bolivia), the country has had to grapple with thesecontradictions which have been defining it for hundredsof years: How to respect and value the diversity of ethnic particularities while at the same time uniting a nation around common ideas and values such as vivir bien? How to protect nature and culture and yet still exploit naturalresources whilst addressing environmental concerns andprotecting people’s rights? And how to build a unifying Bolivian national identity?
This issue of Bolivian Express deals with these weighty contradictions but also with the smaller concerns that surround us and are part of our everyday life: thealtiplano weather where one wears short sleeves at 4pm and a winter coat by 7pm, the eco-trucks carting away garbage whilst spewing dark gasoline emissions, the grumpy caserita who begrudgingly does you a favour byselling you a chocolate bar and the thousands of otheridiosyncrasies which make Bolivia the place we know andlove – but don’t always quite understand.But there are also a few less obvious contradictions thatare much more problematic and paint a darker Bolivia.Prisons here are places where children sometimes live,exiting and entering freely while their parents stay lockedinside. Despite achieving gender parity in the highestinstitutional offices and ranking second in the world infemale representation in government, Bolivia still hashigh rates of domestic violence, femicides and sexualharassment. Ultimately, to answer these questions and move past itsentangled history, Bolivia will have to base its future onlived and shared experiences; on its unique tapestry ofparticularities, specificities and richness; and on newlyforged paths that allow modernity and indigeneity tomove forward together, whilst the coountry navigates thecontradictions of its own identity.
ARTICLES FROM THIS ISSUE
23 Jul, 2018 | Marion Joubert
Illustration: Oscar ZallesThe festival that rose from the ashesThe night is particularly freezing, but I wouldn’t advise you start a fire to warm up. On a night like this, a 24th of June, you risk a f...
El Club de las Malcogidas lights up La Paz
23 Jul, 2018 | Jack Francklin
Photo: Jack FrancklinDenisse Arancibia is the mastermind behind the immensely powerful musicalThe final showing on 4 July of the musical El Club de las Malcogidas brought an end to a production which...
The Wild Chinese Garlic Chase
23 Jul, 2018 | Stephanie Long
Photo: Stephanie LongWe look for the foreign plant, but find so much moreOur quest for Chinese garlic, which is reportedly infiltrating and damaging the Bolivian domestic garlic market, began with a m...
Beyond the Numbers
23 Jul, 2018 | Leigh Anderson
Photo: Courtesy of Coordinadora de La MujerChallenges Bolivian women face in spite of equal representation in parliamentWith women holding 53.1% of the seats in parliament as of 2017, Bolivia ranks se...
‘Luchas para la transición’
23 Jul, 2018 | Jack Francklin
Photo: Jack Francklin The fight between society and technologyLuchas para la transición, a book written by Jorge Viaña Uzedia last year, provides a fascinating insight into socialism in Bolivia. The b...
El Valle de las Ánimas
23 Jul, 2018 | Charles Bladon
Photo: Gonzalo LasernaJust east of La Paz’s Zona Sur, the spires of el Valle de las Ánimas (‘Valley of the Souls’) hang over a carved-up glacial valley, resonating with a mystical quality. A mere one-...
Beso de Chola
23 Jul, 2018 | Milo Clenshaw
Photos: Antonio Suárez and Alejandra SanchezThe art of empowerment: feminism, sexuality and the indigenous imageSince its conception in 2016, Beso de Chola, a performance piece and accompanying photo...
23 Jul, 2018 | Robyn Kate Pollard
Photos: Marion JoubertThe talent of amalgamating art and politicsA spacious workshop with a large window overlooking the mountains, home to an array of paints, brushes, oils, pencils and hundreds of b...
A Fisherman’s Life
23 Jul, 2018 | Katherina Sourine
Photos: Katherina SourineVisiting the Chilaya community on Lake TiticacaThe boat rocked gently and the crisp morning air facilitated a sense of clarity in the experience: tangling fish out of the net,...
Street and Urban Art according to Knorke Leaf
23 Jul, 2018 | Bridget Tahourdin
The prominent Bolivian street artist Knorke Leaf has much to say on the power of street and urban art: ‘It’s a spiritual power...’ she muses. ‘It’s in the colours.’ Her artistic actions and her involv...