Bolivian Indians look to new era

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Bolivian Indians look to new era

By Hans Norebrink

LA PAZ — With red ponchos under a forest of their rainbow-coloured "Wiphala" flags, Indian peasants from all parts of Bolivia marched into the capital on October 12 to mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the European invasion of the Americas. Estimates put the crowd at 30,000 to 50,000.

La Paz is the capital of the Aymara Indians of the high plateau, but also present were Quechuas from the valleys and the lowland Indians and mestizo peasants of eastern Bolivia. (Peasant and Indian are almost interchangeable words in Bolivia.)

Paulino Guarachi, president of the peasant union, said the gathering was the beginning of the end of internal colonialism, with its domination and discrimination. The union's vice president, Lidia Flores, emphasised that the peasants have to fight for their own culture and religion and their own government.

The president of the national labour federation, Oscar Salas, stressed that Bolivia is multinational and that the workers are also descendants of the Indians.

Aymara priests from the Council of the Original Religion sacrificed lamas to the earth goddess Pachamama and to the sun. They blessed the cornerstone that officially inaugurated the National Congress of the Original Nations and the People. This is seen as the start of a new, better, era, called Pachakuti in Andean tradition.

Elsewhere in the country, in Cochabamba, peasant leader Ewo Morales said the new congress has to become a kind of parliament of a new state in which development is based on recovery of the old Indian forms of production.

Peasants mobilised in most of the larger cities of Bolivia. In Sucre, 20,000 Quechua peasants gathered and declared the town the capital of the Quechua nation.

According to the Catholic Church paper Presencia, between 60,000 and 75,000 Indians throughout Bolivia participated in the 500 year commemorations.