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The Second Founding of Bolivia


On the 22nd of January of the year 2002, Evo was expelled from Paradise. In other words: Deputy Morales was ejected from the Parliament. On the 22nd of January of the year 2006, in the same hall of pomposity, Evo Morales was consecrated President of Bolivia. In other words: Bolivia begins to discover that it is a country of an indigenous majority.

At the time of the expulsion, an Indian deputy was rarer than a green dog. Four years later, many are the legislators who chew coca, a millennial custom which was prohibited in the sacred parliamentary space.

Long before the expulsion of Evo, his people, the indigenous, had already been expelled from the official nation. They were not children of Bolivia: they were merely its hands. Until a little more than half a century ago, the Indians could not vote or walk on the sidewalks of its cities.

With good reason, Evo said, in his first presidential address, that the Indians were not invited, in 1825, to the founding of Bolivia. That is also the history of all America, including the United States. Our nations were born all false. The independence of the American countries was from the beginning usurped by a very minor minority. All the first constitutions, without exception, left out women, the indigenous, Blacks, and the poor in general.

The election of Evo Morales is, at least in this sense, equivalent to the election of Michelle Bachelet. Evo and Eva. For the first time an indigenous president in Bolivia, for the first time a woman president in Chile. And the same could be said of Brazil, where for the first time the Minister of Culture is Black. Doesn’t the culture that has saved Brazil from sadness have African roots?

In these lands, sick with racism and machismo, there will be some who believe that all this is a scandal. What is scandalous is that it had not happened earlier. The mask falls, the face appears, and the tempest roars.

The only language worthy of faith is the language born of the necessity to speak. The gravest flaw of Evo is that people believe him, because he conveys authenticity even when, speaking Castellano [Spanish], which is not his mother tongue, he makes some minor error. The doctors who are masters of echoing others’ voices accuse him of ignorance. The peddlers of promises accuse him of demagogy. Those who imposed a single God, a single king, and a single truth in America accuse him of caudillismo. And the assassins of Indians tremble in panic, fearful that their victims will be like them.

Bolivia seemed to be no more than the pseudonym of those who ruled Bolivia and squeezed it out even as they sang its national anthem. And the humiliation of the Indians, made customary, seemed a destiny. But in the most recent times, months, years, this country lived in a perpetual state of popular insurrection.  This process of continuous uprisings, which left a trail of dead, culminated in the gas war, but the process had begun long ago. It had existed long before the recent uprisings and it continued after them, until the election of Evo against all odds.

An old history of treasures plundered for more than four centuries, since the middle of the sixteenth century, was being repeated in the case of Bolivian gas:

the silver of Potosí left a barren mountain,
the saltpeter of the Pacific coast left a map without a sea,
the tin of Oruro left a multitude of widows.

That, and only that, they left.

The people who rose up in the last several years got riddled with bullets, but they prevented the gas from evaporating into the hands of others,
unprivatized the water in Cochabamba and La Paz, overthrew governments governed from abroad, and said no to the income tax and other wise orders from the International Monetary Fund.

From the point of view of the civilized media of communication, these explosions of popular dignity were acts of barbarism. A thousand times I have seen, read, heard it: Bolivia is an incomprehensible country, ungovernable, intractable, unviable. The journalists who say it and repeat it are mistaken: they should confess that Bolivia is, for them, an invisible country.

That is not remarkable. That blindness is not only a bad custom of arrogant foreigners. Bolivia was born blind to itself, because racism spins a web that covers the eyes, and there is certainly no lack of Bolivians who prefer to see themselves through the eyes that despise them.

But there must be a reason why the indigenous flag of the Andes pays homage to the diversity of the world. According to tradition, it’s a flag born of the mating of the female rainbow with the male rainbow. And this earthly rainbow, which in the native tongue is called the flaming cloth of blood, has more colors than the rainbow in the sky.

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