The Bolivia Reader provides a panoramic view, from antiquity to the present, of the history, culture, and politics of a country known for its ethnic and regional diversity, its rich natural resources and dilemmas of economic development, and its political conflict and creativity. Featuring both classic and little-known texts ranging from fiction, memoir, and poetry to government documents, journalism, and political speeches, the volume challenges stereotypes of Bolivia as a backward nation while offering insights into the country's history of mineral extraction, revolution, labor organizing, indigenous peoples' movements, and much more. Whether documenting Inka rule or Spanish conquest, three centuries at the center of Spanish empire, or the turbulent politics and cultural vibrancy of the national period, these sources—the majority of which appear in English for the first time—foreground the voices of actors from many different walks of life. Unprecedented in scope, The Bolivia Reader illustrates the historical depth and contemporary challenges of Bolivia in all their complexity.
About the Author
Sinclair Thomson is Associate Professor of History at New York University. Rossana Barragán is Senior Researcher at the International Institute of Social History in the Netherlands. Xavier Albó is a Jesuit priest and independent scholar. Seemin Qayum is an independent scholar. Mark Goodale is Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology at the University of Lausanne.
Read an Excerpt
First Peoples and the Making of Andean and Amazonian Space
The seventeenth-century chronicler Father Bernabé Cobo summed up the myths of origin among Andean peoples from Quito in the north to Qollasuyu in the south: "Each nation claims for itself the honor of having been the first people and says that everyone else came from them." He noted, "Using their imagination, each nation told their story in a different way." He added that each saw humanity originating in its own territory: "Each nation wished to place creation somewhere within its own lands." Such myths thus encapsulated not only native peoples' notion of their beginnings, but their vision of the space they had inhabited since the dawn of remembered time.
In many origin stories, both in the Andes and the Amazon, the lineage founders and culture heroes were the first to demonstrate their peoples' collective knowledge and technology. Thus, the mythical Guaraní twins from the southeastern lowlands displayed the hunting and warfare skills so valued by their descendants. These primordial ancestors were also seen to have shaped the features of highland and lowland landscapes. Hence, as the transgendered figure of Tunupa journeyed down the aquatic axis of the southern Andes, he drifted across Lake Titicaca, opened up the Desaguadero River, and later her breast milk filled the white expanse of the Uyuni salt lake.
For scholars, the origins of human settlement in the Andean region date back at least 11,000 years. As the glacial period came to an end, people moved into the high-mountain regions and began to domesticate crops and camelids and to convert the challenging environmental conditions of the Andes into the staging ground for flourishing societies. The environmental variations within a relatively limited geographical transect could be dramatic: from the altiplano (or high plateau, at an average elevation over 12,000 feet above sea level), the eastern cordillera (with peaks reaching to 21,000 feet) dropped steeply down into the subtropical Yungas valleys to the east and then into the lush foothills that spilled into the Amazon basin, while the equally imposing western cordillera slid into the coastal desert along the Pacific. Key among the Andean adaptations to the extreme topographical andclimatic conditions was the "vertical integration" of dispersed settlements that obtained access to diverse resources at different elevations. As the ethnohistorian John V. Murra and the Bolivian scholar Ramiro Condarco Morales independently showed, native polities accumulated impressive surpluses of wealth and redistributed them efficiently among large populations using Andean strategies for discontinuous territorial control, complementary production zones, and nonmarket forms of exchange up and down the vertical architecture of the cordillera.
The first great civilization in the southern Andean territory that is today Bolivia was Tiwanaku, which grew from a small polity just south of Lake Titicaca more than 1,500 years ago into a metropolis and ceremonial center sustaining a population of perhaps 125,000 residents and a greater hinterland of a quarter million people. Farmers used raised-field (sukakollo) agriculture, ingeniously suited to the altiplano's extreme temperature fluctuations, for crop yields far superior to those obtained by peasant agriculturalists today. Tiwanaku's vast political, religious, and trading system reached from the lake district down into the valleys of Cochabamba and the tropical lowlands to the east, and to the desert valleys and oases along the Pacific coast to the west, in what is today Chile and Peru.
After Tiwanaku declined sometime around 1100 of the current era, there proliferated a multiplicity of ethnic federations or chieftainships that sparred over territory and called on the support of the lightning gods of war, metals, and prosperity. From among them, the Inka people based in Cuzco arose to establish a vast new polity spanning from what is today southern Colombia in the north down to northern Argentina and central Chile in the south, making it the largest territorial state in the world at the time. Like other regional ethnic federations in the southern Andes, the Inka claimed descent from the earlier civilizational matrix at Tiwanaku and Lake Titicaca. In the imperial version of their origin myth, the Inka asserted that their ancestors had first emerged in the lake district before subsequently migrating north to Cuzco.
The Inka state — known as the Land of the Four Quarters, or Tawantinsuyu — expanded during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries into the domain it named Qollasuyu, the southern quadrant of Tawantinsuyu, which included contemporary Bolivian territory. The Inka drew on older Andean strategies for relocating populations and modifying landscapes for production, and southern Andean space and economy were profoundly transformed by their massive colonization efforts. The colonists (known as mitimaes to the Spanish) came from different regions in Tawantinsuyu and fulfilled different functions: military, administrative, agricultural, and artisanal. Under the Inka Wayna Qhapaq, for example, state management turned the fertile valleys of Cochabamba into the granary of Qollasuyu.
Scholars estimate that early human settlement in Bolivia's eastern lowlands likewise goes back more than 11,000 years. There followed successive waves of migration by mobile peoples that occupied the territory from the humid tropical savanna feeding into the Mamoré River basin, a tributary of the Amazon, down to the dry plains and scrub forests of the Chaco region, in the Pilcomayo River basin, a tributary of the Paraguay River in the south. For example, the Guaraní, a warrior culture from one of the three principal language families in South America, followed river routes as they sought out new territory, sometimes expressed in their mythic search for the "land of no evil." When they reached the Chaco, they fused with the already established Chané people, the southernmost extension of the diaspora of Arawak-speakers who had migrated across the Amazon basin from the Caribbean. They subsequently received the name of Chiriguanos, though today they prefer to be known simply as Guaraní.
As the origin myths express in their own imaginative terms, the ancestors did in fact fashion the human geography of the tropics. In the late twentieth century, geographers and archaeologists have significantly recast our understanding of lowland indigenous societies prior to the conquest. Though these societies were long viewed as simple nomadic groups, new research demonstrates that resourceful human domestication of diverse Amazonian environments gave rise to larger and more prosperous populations — as in Mojos, or in the Baure territory and along the Guaporé River described by the Jesuit Francisco Javier Eder in the eighteenth century — with complex political organization and impressive scientific and technological achievements, especially in the taming of the wetlands. From these and other developments in the region emerged legends about cities of splendor and wealth deep in the Amazonian interior — El Dorado or Paitití — that fired the imagination of Spanish conquistadors. Yet the effects of European invasion and disease contributed to the collapse of the large and complex societies that had inhabited the Amazonian lowlands and that left the impressive remains recently rediscovered by contemporary scientists.
Myth of Inka Origin at Lake Titicaca Bernabé Cobo
In the Andean highlands, there were as many different origin myths as there were native peoples. Each ethnic group sought to establish its importance through such stories, by claiming to be the first people to appear in the world. Many accounts told of primordial ancestors emerging from local points in the landscape, such as caves and springs. Yet Lake Titicaca and the area around Tiwanaku acquired an exceptional prestige for people not only in the Collao region but more broadly in the southern Andes. Given the power and civilizational achievement of Tiwanaku society, many peoples considered the lake to be the "navel of the world" and a site of tremendous spiritual and political power.
The Inka themselves sought to lay claim to the symbolic prestige of the lake region. As they grew from being simply one more local ethnic federation into an expansive imperial force in the southern Andes, they likewise revised their myth of origin: a modest tale of having emerged from a cave in the Cuzco area became one in which their ancestors first appeared through divine intervention on an island on Lake Titicaca and thereafter migrated to Cuzco.
Bernabé Cobo (1582–1657) was a Jesuit chronicler and natural historian who drew on earlier Spanish accounts and his own research to write a monumental treatment of the New World. He first served at a mission in the lakeside town of Juli and traveled throughout the Charcas district, then later held university positions in Peru and Mexico. While his rendering of Andean society and religion prior to the conquest was not sympathetic, he assumed that the similarities between Andean beliefs and his own — such as those concerning the Creator God, the flood, and the original human couple — showed that Indians had a crude intuition of what he took to be Christian truth.
The whole basis of any religion and divine worship hinges on a knowledge of the first cause, whether it be the true cause or some false or imaginary one, from which men believe that they originated and on which they depend for their preservation, and it also hinges on an understanding of the final state that awaits them after this life. ... All of the Indian nations of this Kingdom of Peru agreed that man's beginning was followed by a Universal Flood in which everyone perished except a very few who were saved by the Creator's divine providence in order for them to repopulate the world. On this point they are very confused because they do not distinguish the creation of the world from its restoration after the Flood had passed. Some place Creation before the Flood, but the majority confuse Creation with the Flood and the restoration that came afterward. Thus they trace man's beginning to those who were saved from the waters of the Flood. With regard to who those people may have been and where they escaped from that great inundation, they tell a thousand absurd stories. Each nation claims for itself the honor of having been the first people and says that everyone else came from them.
... Without mentioning the Flood, some say that there was a Creator of the Universe who created the sky and the earth with the diverse nations of men that inhabit it. They say that after having put all the things he created in order and making sure that each one had its own proper place, he went from Tiaguanaco up to heaven. Others deny that this happened at Tiaguanaco, and they say that the Creator stationed himself in a high place and from there he made man and the other living creatures. However, there are as many opinions about where this place may be as there are provinces and nations in this kingdom. In fact each nation wished to place creation somewhere within its own lands. The inhabitants of Collao are divided into two opposing views. Some hold that creation happened in Tiaguanaco; others place it on the Island of Titicaca, which is located on the great Lake Chucuito [Titicaca]. Actually, both places fall within the Diocese of Chuquiabo.
... The other fables that they have on this subject place the origin of man at about the time of the Flood. On the subject of the Flood these Indians had ample information. However, the only explanation that they give for the Flood is that it was caused by the will of Viracocha. In addition, they were convinced that since the world was brought to an end by water at that time, it would certainly come to an end again due to one of these three causes: hunger, pestilence, or fire. With respect to the Flood, there are considerable discrepancies about the exact place where the waters first receded and man began to populate and about who restored the human race. But since they are so much in the dark and deluded on this matter, lacking any other basis than the one they give for other matters pertaining to their religion, each one makes up whatever happens to suit his fancy. Some hold that when the waters started to recede, the first land that appeared was the Island of Titicaca. They state that the Sun hid there while the Flood lasted and that as the Flood got over, the Sun was seen there before it was seen anyplace else. Other nations indicate that these things happened in other places, and each one imagines all sorts of foolishness. Almost all of them agree that all the people and all things created perished in the Flood because the water covered the highest peaks in the world. Therefore, nothing remained alive except one man and one woman who got into a drum that floated on the water without sinking. As the water decreased, the drum came down at Tiaguanaco.
Others say that after the Flood, in which everyone perished, in Tiaguanaco the Creator used clay to form all the nations that there are in this land; he painted each one with the clothing to be used by that nation, and he also gave each nation the language they were to speak, the songs they were to sing, as well as the foods, seeds, and vegetables with which they were to sustain themselves. This done, the Creator ordered them to go down beneath the earth, each nation by itself, so that they could emerge from there at the places where he ordered them to do so. Some of them were to come out of caves, others out of hills, springs, lakes, tree trunks, and others from still other different places. Thus, each province started to worship their place [of origin] as a major guaca because their lineage had originated there. In addition, they held their earliest ancestors to be gods, and they put images of them in the places mentioned above. Thus, each nation dressed in the clothing that they painted on their guaca. In addition, they say that after having begot their offspring, those same men in the same places as before changed into a variety of things, some into falcons, condors, and other birds and animals. For this reason, each nation's guacas and idols were shaped like different objects, birds, or animals.
Other nations believed that in the waters of the Flood everyone perished, except for some people who were able to escape by going into caves, up trees, or on top of hills. Only a few escaped, and they repopulated the world. Since they were saved in those places, each place was designated a shrine. Moreover, they put idols of stone, silver, and other metals there to commemorate those who escaped, and each idol was given the name of the one whom they boasted about being their ancestor. They adored these idols like their parents and protectors, and each nation offered sacrifices to them of the things they used.
The Myth of Tunupa Oral Tradition
Tunupa is among the oldest gods of the people of the southern Andean and Qollasuyu region and is associated with the creative and destructive forces of fire and volcanoes, thunder and lightning. In the classic version of Tunupa's story, an elderly male figure travels from the north to the south of Lake Titicaca. He is imprisoned, then cast away on a raft on the lake. As his raft drifts, it opens up the Desaguadero River, on which it then floats farther south, giving distinct features to the Andean landscape.
The version recounted here, based on Ramiro Molina Rivero's contemporary ethnographic research among indigenous people on the southern altiplano, reverses Tunupa's gender and generational identity. In the southern reaches of the Desaguadero River, Tunupa becomes a beautiful young woman, associated with the Uyuni salt lake, who is caught up in fraught relations with the masculine sacred forces of the surrounding volcanoes. After fleeing from her abusive marriage with a jealous old mallku (native lord) incarnated in the Asanaques mountain, she travels with her children, along the way shaping the Andean landscape of the region and defining the historical territory of the Quillacas, Asanaques, Aullagas, Uruquillas, and Sevaruyos-Aracapis federations. Her activities represent Andean women's daily domestic routines, which involve food storage, preparing and cooking quinoa, and feeding and caring for children. The surrounding mountains, imagined as fierce young warriors and powerful chiefs, attempt to conquer Tunupa for themselves, but they fail. Today, the mythic heroine Tunupa has taken the shape of a graceful volcano overlooking the Uyuni salt flat.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Bolivia Reader"
Copyright © 2018 Duke University Press.
Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments xix Introduction 1 I. First Peoples and the Making of Andean and Amazonian Space 13 II. States and Conquests in the Andes 45 III. The Rich Mountain 71 IV. From Indian Insurgency to Creole Independence 115 V. Market Circuits and Enclave Extraction 161 VI. The Nation and Political Fragmentation 207 VII. The Nationalization of Natural Resources 257 VIII. Revolutionary Currents 323 IX. Dictatorship and Democracy 407 X. Neoliberalism and Lowland Ascendency 503 XI. Competing Projects for the Future 541 XII. Pachakuti? 623 Suggestions for Further Reading and Viewing 679 Acknowledgment of Copyright and Sources 687 Index 699
What People are Saying About This
“The Bolivia Reader is a quite remarkable scholarly and editorial achievement. Its approach of providing us with direct access to scores of primary sources constitutes a unique ‘document of documents’ through which to engage with the country and its past. The editors have selected an exceptionally rich range of perspectives from before the Spanish conquest to the era of Evo Morales, from right and left, elite and popular, society and politics, literature and art. Their magisterial commentaries will assist all—newcomer and specialist alike—through the spellbinding Bolivian experience. Yet we, the readers of The Bolivia Reader, are always left free to form our own opinions.”
“With The Bolivia Reader as guide, the reader sets off on a fascinating journey through five hundred tumultuous years of history. The Reader offers a dazzling kaleidoscope of voices, perspectives, visual images, and textual genres. It throws new light on the country’s remote historical landscapes, unresolved social tensions, suppressed histories and memories, and inextinguishable indigenous cultures. More than an introductory volume, The Bolivia Reader contains documentary riches and insightful essays that promise to make it an indispensable book for scholars, travelers, and students.”