The timid rays of the sun receded from the Bolivian tropical savannas, bathing the valleys and disappearing behind the Andean mountains, on the afternoon of Dec. 18. They seemed to foretell that the Bolivian schizophrenic "political culture" was dying. And it happened.
On that day, indigenous Bolivia came out of political anonymity. In a move unprecedented in Bolivian and Latin American democratic history, the great indigenous majority, previously excluded and subordinated, elected one of our own, using the power of responsible and conscientious votes.
An indigenous man, Evo Morales Ayma, is our president! Yes, the llama herder from the forgotten Orinoca village. The man who as a child survived by following sheep and llamas and eating the dried orange peels the truck drivers threw out on the roadside, who as a ragged boy "celebrated" his "joy of living" once in awhile with a dishful of hank’akipa (cornmeal soup); a Bolivian who was born on his mother’s skirts (not in a hospital) under the dim light of a homemade oil lamp; a man who, like many others, dreamed of one day attending a university and becoming a professional but learned that, because of the exclusionary political culture and abject poverty, those dreams were unattainable.
Evo learned the lessons of political leadership in the school of life while working with the unions in Chapare (the tropical province of Cochabamba where he emigrated with his parents because of dire poverty in the highlands). He was deeply moved and outraged when he learned one of the coca growers’ leaders had been burned alive by the military. Later on, the union would open his eyes, mind, and heart to understand the causes of poverty of the Bolivian people.
The Bolivian neoliberal elite, promoted by the United States, tried very hard to avoid and stop the democratic revolution of the indigenous people, but it was too late. The contained anger and outrage on the face of so much corruption and betrayal by the shameless traditional politicians had reached the limits. Now was the time. Indigenous movements, laborers, farmworkers, social organizations, professionals, intellectuals, students, women, day laborers and theunemployed got together, armed with voting ballots and voting booths, to start a democratic revolution.
Before today the Bolivian social movements were labeled as communist and anarchic, or as drug dealers and disrupters of order by the official national and international media. By now the world knows by the results that we Bolivians are not terrorists or drug dealers. We are only people who want to live, people capable of solving our own historic problems using the democratic tools of the game.
The sun shone bright on the morning of Dec. 19. It washed away 180 years of exclusionary darkness and subordination of the indigenous people of Bolivia.
Never again against us! Never again without us! All of us together make Bolivia! Our destiny calls us to work in unity on the multicolored fabric of our national identity!
Quispe is a Bolivian lawyer and activist who accompanied a San Francisco Presbyterian Church delegation known as Joining Hands Against Hunger on a recent tour of Bolivia. Translated from the spanish by Nancy Gruel.
For more information see "Evo Presidente!"