Tamara Pearson

“We lack everything” Frances Buitrago, a small shopkeeper in the city of Merida, commented to Green Left Weekly. “There isn’t any milk, rice, mayonnaise, oil, wheat, or butter.”

“You’re only killing a man”, revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara said in a school in La Higuera, before he was shot. Forty years later, in that exact spot, among the fog of the Bolivian forest and darkness of night, flags representing social movements from all over Latin America waved in the wind and their bearers danced together until sunrise. That night of October 7 we remembered Che and the struggles of that time, through speeches and song, and we thought about the future as the continent turns red with the idealism, humanism, rejection of neoliberalism, and collective ownership of resources that Che had talked of and fought for.

About 10 stalls with banners, photos, information and signature books filled Cochabamba’s Plaza 14 de Septiembre on October 2 as Bolivians continued their campaign for Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Her name is Lucha, short for Luisa. It means “struggle”.

She wears a purple polera, down to her knees,

And carries her shop in the rainbow aguayo on her back

Her husband died 2 years ago,

She has 3 children

She is 26.

Lucha’s mass the rusted roads, the birthing soils.

Throughout the week, some people in Cochabamba had worried about how September 13, a date expected to involve confrontation between the supporters of the government of left-wing, indigenous President Evo Morales and the right wing, would turn out. People at work talked of a coup. Others remembered the protest on January 11 when three people were killed and some buildings burnt, worrying that the same would happen again. Some of the most right wing spoke of a campesino “invasion”.

On August 28, a Tuesday, the centre of the city of Cochabamba was unusually quiet, even compared to Sundays. Most shops had their shutters down, and the chaotic combination of small street stalls was replaced by a few women selling orange juice on one corner, another selling nuts. Some young boys played with a ball on the main road — normally alive with trufis, micros and taxis, but on Tuesday almost empty. The quiet was a product of a strike organised by the right wing, targeting the government of Bolivia’s indigenous president, Evo Morales.

Bolivia, a country with a majority indigenous population, now has its first indigenous president, Evo Morales. Morales, who won the December 2005 presidential election, doesn’t just identify as indigenous, he is a fighter for the indigenous cause. His presidency is a massive step forward for indigenous rights — not only in Bolivia, but in Latin America, and possibly even the world.

Pages

Subscribe to Tamara Pearson