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Arno Rosenfeld
10/15/09
Post-Colonial Latin America
G Block
Mr. Carter

Bolivia
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Define the level of tolerance and acceptance of others within the society.
Please use examples to support your assertion.

Bolivia differs from many other Latin American countries in that it has a very large number of

indigenous people living in the country. While other countries native populations were completely

decimated by the European colonizers, Bolivia managed to retain a significant population of native

people. Much of the native people live in the rural areas of Bolivia. They have little access to basic

social services and have been the target of discrimination by the descendants of the Europeans who

controlled Bolivia for a long time, before it became a democracy [Morales 15-35].

When the Spanish colonizers came to Bolivia their main goal was to control the wealth that was

available in the country and to convert the population to Christianity [Morales 16]. They succeeded in

doing both of these, converting much of the population and getting rich in places such as the mining

town of Potosi, which became synonymous with successful mining. However, all of this “success”

came at a great expense; limiting the levels of tolerance in Bolivian society for hundreds of years to

come.

In order to justify being able to do the kinds of things that the Spanish conquerors did to the

natives they had to dehumanize them. So while Bolivians at times showed inter-class, inter-race

alliances [Morales 36] such as during the rebellion against Spanish rule, it was clear who was in

charge. The descendants of the Spanish controlled the new nation. The first constitutionally elected

president of Bolivia, Antonio Jose de Sucre, levied heavy taxes or “tribute payments” on the countries

800,000 natives and he seized much of the Catholic Church's property, diminishing it's power in the

country [Morales 52]. These policies proved to be both unpopular and unsuccessful, but they go to

show that from the start Bolivia lacked tolerance for groups that were different.
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But times have changed, Bolivia is now ruled by Evo Morales, an Indian. He is one of the first

Indian rulers in South America and he has done much to improve the lives of the Indians in Bolivia,

much to the ire of powerful Bolivian corporations, most of which are owned by Mestizo's or foreign

investors, but not Indians [New York Times]. Morales has rewritten the constitution and placed much

favor on the Northern provinces of Bolivia which are primarily Indian. He has taken an unfriendly

stance toward many of the companies in Bolivia which had a monopoly on services such as energy and

water. Though much corruption still remains, and the Mestizos are still the dominant race and are still

significantly better off than the Indians Morales' policies have led to rioting and civil unrest in major

cities, with Mestizo's protesting what they consider racist and unfair policies [New York Times].

So while a new president's policies have shifted the favor from the descendants of the Spanish

colonizers onto the native peoples of Bolivia much tension still exists between the two groups. Bolivia

has not had a history of tolerance. Stories of things such as the travesties committed in Potosi help to

illustrate this [Morales 27]. But Bolivia seems to be moving in the right direction. As Bolivia begins to

accept all groups into society it will boost South America's poorest country and help it to participate in

the emerging economic opportunities of the continent .


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How much social mobility exists within the nation? You will probably
need to do some statistical analysis to define this concept.

South America as a whole has extremely poor social mobility. Social mobility can be defined as

the ability to move from one economic class to another economic class. In practice, this would mean

that the son of a rural farmer could move the city and become an entrepreneur or a business man or

some get some other professional job. Moving from an impoverished community into a financially

successful financial class. Social mobility can also include things such as intermarriage between

Indians and Mestizo's or other racial classes. Unfortunately, South America as a whole, and Bolivia

specifically have very poor social mobility. This is due to many factors.

One of the most essential things for social mobility is education. Without education you cannot

move into a new line of work or get any new opportunities because all you will know how to do is what

your family does, thus eliminating the chance to move up in the social/class structure. Education is

provided relatively well in both rural and urban areas until age eleven or twelve at which point it

becomes very hard to receive in rural areas [World Bank]. According to the World Bank's 2006 report:

Education in Bolivia: Challenges for 2006-2010 “...from ages 12 onwards, enrollment drops... At that

age, students in urban areas, Spanish-speakers and from higher income families have a greater chance

[of continuing their education].”

Without an education past age twelve it is going to be very hard for anyone to move up in the

social order. The average Bolivian adult has attended 5.6 years of school and while literacy rates appear

to be quite high at 93% for men and 87% for women, the definition of “literate” is quite low [State

Department]. President Morales has claimed to make certain regions “illiteracy free” but that often just

means that the people in that area are able to write their name and recognize numbers [State
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Department]. The Bolivian government funds public universities, teacher training colleges and

technical training institutions. Tuition at these schools does not exceed $3300 US Dollars per year

[WHED]. This price can nonetheless make higher education a luxury that the lower class cannot afford,

not to mention without a high school education it is unlikely that one could pass the entrance exam.

In order to increase social mobility it is vital that the Bolivian government provides better

education to the lower class and especially to those who live in rural areas. While there are unique

challenges in providing comprehensive education to rural villages because there is a big lack of density.

Nonetheless if the government wants it's population to excel and move up it needs to do whatever it

takes to educate it's rural population.


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What institutions in society offer support and aid to those in need?

Being South America's poorest countries and one of the worlds poorest counties, ranked by the

United Nations 114th out of 177 countries in terms of poverty, Bolivia is the recipient of much

international aid. On a large scale the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund both provide

much funding to the Bolivian government that helps with things like education, healthcare and

infrastructure [World Bank]. The Spanish government has provided aid to Bolivia as well for things

such as clean water due in large part to the fact that there is a large Bolivian population living in Spain.

Other foreign governments have also provided aid to Bolivia including the Canadian government

through its “Millennium Development Goals.”

One NGO (Non-governmental organization) that is doing a lot of work in Bolivia on behalf of

womens rights is MADRE. MADRE does work worldwide for womens rights but it's focus in Bolivia

has currently been working on women getting elected and they have teamed up with the Indigenous

Womens Forum to do so. They are attempting to fix the road blocks that exist for indigenous women

who want to run for public office and participate in politics. While Evo Morales' has reformed to

constitution to allow them to run, the ability to run alone is not enough for them to get elected.

MADRE does work worldwide for womens rights but it's focus in Bolivia has currently been working

on women getting elected and they have teamed up with the Indigenous Womens Forum to do so

[MADRE].

Womens rights and Indigenous rights in Bolivia are a very important cause for organizations to

take up because even though they represent the majority of the population, they are still discriminated

against in many ways. Women in general are at a disadvantage in Bolivia due to inequality in many
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areas including political power, financial independence and even healthcare [Baily/Paulson 1]. Women

are rarely able to work outside of the house and can usually do so only with the help of another women

who can stay at home and cook and clean [Schroeder 1]. So while most of the Western World see's

women as professional equals Bolivia (and much of South America) has a very long ways to go.
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What are the forces/institutions/people who are advocating change?


What are the goals of any reform movements?

One of the biggest forces for change in Bolivia currently is the man in charge of the entire

country. Evo Morales, the nations president and the first Indian president of the country has been a

tremendous advocate for Indian rights and for his parties socialist agenda. So in that sense the Bolivian

government has become a significant force for change in Bolivia. Morales rewrote the constitution in

early 2009 [The New York Times]. The new constitution grants more power to the Northern provinces

of Bolivia where there is a significant Indian population.

One NGO (Non-governmental organization) that is doing a lot of work in Bolivia on behalf of

womens rights is MADRE. MADRE does work worldwide for womens rights but it's focus in Bolivia

has currently been working on women getting elected and they have teamed up with the Indigenous

Womens Forum to do so. They are attempting to fix the road blocks that exist for indigenous women

who want to run for public office and participate in politics. While Evo Morales' has reformed to

constitution to allow them to run, the ability to run alone is not enough for them to get elected.

MADRE does work worldwide for womens rights but it's focus in Bolivia has currently been working

on women getting elected and they have teamed up with the Indigenous Womens Forum to do so

[MADRE].

Womens rights and Indigenous rights in Bolivia are a very important cause for organizations to

take up because even though they represent the majority of the population, they are still discriminated

against in many ways. Women in general are at a disadvantage in Bolivia due to inequality in many

areas including political power, financial independence and even healthcare [Baily/Paulson 1]. Women

are rarely able to work outside of the house and can usually do so only with the help of another women

who can stay at home and cook and clean [Schroeder 1]. So while most of the Western World see's
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women as professional equals Bolivia (and much of South America) has a very long ways to go.
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How do people cope with their station in society?

Bolivia has had a long history of civil unrest when the population or a certain group within the

country becomes unhappy. Starting with the war for independence, which saw natives team up with

Mestizo's starting in the 1730's and lasting until the early 1800's, Bolivians have long expressed their

feelings by overthrowing the government and through revolution [Morales 35-55]. In a 2005 paper,

Robert Barr said that “Citizens believe they have no means of expressing themselves except

demonstrations.” [Barr 1] Barr's paper was published just a few months before Evo Morales' was

elected president. As the first indigenous president of Bolivia he has rewritten the constitution so that it

favors the natives (who were primarily responsible for his election).

So while Bolivians are not afraid to take to the streets in protest of things that they find unfair,

Morales' policies may have helped convince them that there are more effective outlets for their anger

than the violent protests which had defined indigenous unhappiness in years prior to his election.

Ironically, the anger and unrest has now switched from the natives to Mestizo population who started a

violent riot in the streets of Sucre, Bolivia's capital in late 2007. Two were killed, including a police

officer as rioters threw Molotov cocktails and used dynamite. [USA TODAY].

It seems like an uncivilized way of life, rioting when you are dissatisfied with something going

on, but in Bolivia it is a way of life. The Guardian newspaper had an article entitled Bolivia: Where

rioting is a way of life. “A tropical morning sun beat down on the plaza and the crowd was impatient to

become a mob. Some had sticks, others rocks. "To the school!" shouted someone, and a few young men

started jogging down a muddy road.” [Guardian]. The article starts with a description of a riot of poor

Bolivians who attack a polling station to stop a proposal that would threaten the power of Evo Morales,
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a champion of their rights. So even as Bolivia has become more democratic, all groups seem to find

something to be unhappy about and they continue to express their discontent with violent riots. It seems

that until the extreme poverty and social tension is alleviated in Bolivia that this will continue

indefinitely.

Bibliography
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