Bolivia: Manifesto of Tiawanaku
Since the early 1970s South American indigenous nations began to analyse the
history of their oppression and to formulate political demands on an
unprecedented scale. Nowhere in the world was the process of conscientisation
more explosive, invigorating (and, perhaps, confusing) than in Peru, Bolivia,
and Colombia. Declaration followed Declaration at head-spinning speed.
regional groups proliferated, and, for a few years at least, inter-organisational
conflicts were subjugated to the struggle against military dictatorship.
One of the first seminal statements was the Manifesto
of Tiawanaku, drawn up by
four major Indian/campesino organisations in La Paz, Bolivia, on 30 July 1973.
Membership of these organisations was largely confined to Aymara-speakers, who
emigrated to the capital following the 1952 revolution, forming cultural centres
as well as political parties. This movement has since been dubbed the Katarista,
Tupac Katari being the legendary Indian leader whose name was taken by
MITK'a (Movimiento Indio Tupac Katari) in a proclamation following the
massacre of campesinos by the Banzer regime, at Tolata in January 1974.
In the Tiawanaku Manifesto are to be found elements
of similar declarations made later by Bolivian Indians: the assertion that the peasants are Indians and
the economic powerhouse of the "nation"; acknowledgement of
a debt to left-wing
political parties, tempered by scepticism that their leadership has the interests of
Indians at heart; a recognition of the role of modern technology, medicine and
education in indigenous communities (the clock cannot be turned back, but it
must be set at a human pace); above all, the demand for control over their own
"A liberating peasant policy": Manifesto of Tiawanaku
"A nation which oppresses another nation cannot be
free," the Inca Yupanqui told the
Spaniards. We, Quechua and Aymara peasants, together with the people of other
indigenous cultures in this country, say the same. We feel exploited economically and
oppressed both culturally and politically.
In Bolivia there has been no cultural integration, but rather a superimposition and
domination that have made us remain in the lowest and most exploited stratum of the
pyramid. Bolivia is going and has gone through terrible frustrations. One of these,
perhaps the most widely felt of all, is the lack of real participation of Quechua and
Aymara peasants in the economic, political and social life of the country. We think
that without radical change in this aspect it will be absolutely impossible to create
national unity and a balanced and dynamic economic development which could be
proper and suited for our reality and needs.
Bolivia is entering a new stage in her political life, one of its outstanding features being
the awakening of a peasant consciousness. Now that we are approaching another preelection period we are again going to see professional politicians addressing themselves
to the peasants in order to woo them for their votes, and once again they do so with
deceptions and by giving false promises. Our peasantry should have real political
participation and not a fictitious one. No party be able to build up this country on
fraud and on the exploitation of the peasants. Being peasants ourselves and far from
any motivation derived from party politics, we only care for the liberation of our
people and wish to express in this document the thoughts that we find are essential
regarding the economic, political and social set-up of this country.
Our Culture is of Fundamental Value
A real social process is founded on a cultural basis because this is the deepest value of a
community. Our national frustration has its origin in the fact that the Quechua and
Aymara cultures have constantly been subjected to systematic attempts at destroying
them. The politicians of the ruling minorities have wanted to create development
exclusively based on a slavish imitation of development in other countries even though
our cultural resources and traditions are totally different. Moreover, guided by a
practical materialism they have come to believe that progress is exclusively based on
the economic sides of life.
We peasants want economic development but starting from our own values. We do not
want to lose the noble virtues inherited from our ancestors in honour of
pseudo-development. We fear this false development concept imported from abroad because it
is fictitious and does not take our deepest values into consideration. We want the stale
paternalist attitudes to be left behind and no longer to be treated as second class
citizens. We are foreigners in our own country.
No respect has been shown for our virtues nor for our own ideas about life and the
world. School education, party politics and technical assistance have no
helped bring about any significant change in the rural areas. No peasant participation
has been achieved because their culture has been disregarded and their mentality has not
been understood. We peasants are convinced that there will be no development in the
rural areas and in the whole country until we ourselves become responsible for our
progress and masters of our destiny.
Due to its methods, curriculum, and language, rural education has no part in our cultural
reality. Not only does it seek to turn Indians into some kind of mestizos without a clear
identity or personality but it also strives to assimilate them to Western capitalist
culture. Rural development projects are planned within a framework of individualism
despite the fact that our history is essentially marked by communal spirit and
ownership. The co-operative system is inherent in the people who created modes of
production based on mutual aid, such as the Ayni, MIN'A, Yapanaco, Camayo, etc.
Private property, political sectarianism, individualism, class distinction and internal
fights came to us together with the "Reforma" and have got worse under the regimes of
the Republic. Our Land Reform was also conceived within this framework.
Economic and political power is the basis of cultural liberation. We must modernize our
traditional system and adapt it to technology, but we will under no circumstances break
off from it. All attempts at europeanizing or " americanizing" us, for example in the
way it has been tried through education and politics, are doomed to fail like the
previous ones. Any political movement that really intends to liberate the peasants
must organize itself according to a scheme which takes our cultural values into
consideration. An Indian is noble; he has a sense of justice; he is moderate and
respectful, hardworking and deeply religious. But this great treasure which the Indian
soul possesses has never been understood nor respected. The policies of the colonial
period and the different governments of the Republic have been notably destructive,
causing some of us to adopt serious faults of corrupt and corrupting party politicians.
We have been treated as platforms and stepping-stones for others to fight out their
worst passions and vilest ambitions. We are no longer willing to follow this road of
subjugation and corruption. The disastrous results of it are clear for everyone to see.
Those Indians who no longer want to be Indians owing to bad education and false party
politics, have adopted the worst faults of other races and have made themselves new
exploiters of their own brothers and sisters. We call on them fraternally to unite with
us in a movement for our rights and our culture and to all work together for the
economic and political liberation of our people.
Our governments, politicians, economists and educators should all realize that the
so-called "promotion" of Aymara and Quechua peasants has been a complete failure
because the methods applied have been wrong. In this document we will endeavour to
outline the general features of a liberating peasant policy.
Our history speaks
Before the Spanish conquest our people had an age-long history with virtues that
evolved within a highly socialized structure. The colonial rulers neither bothered to
respect nor recognize our culture, which instead was crushed and subdued. Independence brought no liberty for the Indians; on the contrary, it came about under
liberalist principles which meant that Indians were considered and treated as a passive
social element only fit for being used in the constant wars as cannon or the Indians the
Republic was simply a new way of labeling the fodder. For policies of the ruling cliques.
Indian liberation in the shape of Tupac Katari and his freedom fighters was laid into
irons. Belazu's indigenist policy gave rise to a short upsurge of hope in the peasant
masses, but among Indians life was to continue dragging itself along under ignominy,
exploitation and contempt. Busch and Villarroel wanted to do something to change this
state of affairs but were kept from doing anything by the reactionary handful of ruling families in the country.
With the Revolution of April 9 two great liberating laws arrived: land reform and
universal suffrage. The Land Reform Act enabled us Indians to liberate ourselves from
the dreadful yoke of the landowners. It is a pity that this Act has not had all the
positive effects that it was hoped to bring, the reason for
this being that it was excessively individualist in its scope, and also because certain rightwing groups within the MNR were responsible for this Act's not being implemented,
together with other Acts favouring investment, technical modernization and marketing
of agricultural products. Universal suffrage should
not exclude the participation of the organizations of indigenous communities in the
political life of the country. It is also regrettable that it often has caused our own
politicians to feel a boundless appetite for power. For this reason suffrage for the
Indians has not brought about any liberation but only new forms of fraud and
exploitation. When politicians of the old style approach the peasants they do
not want to be of any use to them but only to make use of them. Some bad peasants
have betrayed our history and our people by introducing these corrupt ways of party
politics into our peasant union movement. By their double-faced conduct and degraded
servility they have strained our name and our
ancestral traditions. We must humbly recognize this, generously forgive and carefully
learn from the experience. The important thing is to take again the road of nobleness
which our forefathers showed us.
Likewise, we give no credit to the harangues of the self-proclaimed left-wing parties
which cannot see that the peasants should be given responsibility for
their own life. In order to become an instrument of liberation for the peasants a
political organization must be created, run and supported by us. Our political
organizations should reflect our values and our real interests.
Despite the fact that we, the peasants, produce 78% of our gross national
product, we receive only 34% of the national income; at the same time the 1.7% which
is made up by the major capital owners of this country receives 21 % of
the national income. It is a fact that Bolivia is one of the countries with the lowest per
capita income in the world since it only just amounts to US$ 120 per
inhabitant per year, and even so the majority of our peasants can scarcely
organise US$ 50 per year. Our diet is one of the poorest in the world in terms of
vitamin content. The mortality rate in our communities is as high today as it was 50
years ago. Our economy is a subsistence economy. We work exclusively to
stay alive and in many cases we do not even achieve that.
However, nobody can claim that our peasants do not work. The farming policies of our
different governments have been most unfortunate. We are totally abandoned to our
fate. The country spends over US$ 20 million on importing agricultural produce from
abroad even though we could produce it all ourselves. They prefer to pay foreign farmers
instead of paying our own peasants. Whenever bank credits for farming have been given,
the only beneficiaries have been the new landowners and the rich few who invest in
cotton, sugar cane and cattle breeding.
Following the devaluation of our currency ordained by the government last October, our
wretched economy has seriously deteriorated. Nobody has given the peasants a thought.
Workers living in the cities, school-teachers, public servants, etc., have all received their
family bonus and a higher salary. Being real outcasts in our society, the peasants have
not received the slightest compensation nor any small incentive whatsoever. Those of us
who sell farm produce retail have only seen a negligible. increase in prices over the years.
This increase in no way makes up for the transport costs which have gone up 40%.
Whereas the things we buy - sugar, noodles, rice, agricultural implements, chemical
fertilizers - have gone up 30-80%, the things we sell have only slightly improved their
price level; moreover, there is a total lack of price control in the rural areas. In such an
uncontrolled situation it is always the peasants who are the losers since they are the
weakest group. This injustice cannot drag on any longer.
What we propose in order to improve this situation is no further paternalist intervention
by the government nor by well-meaning individuals. We believe that the only solution is
to be found in authentic peasant organizations. The disparity of prices between the rural
products which we sell and the goods we have to buy in the towns is a result of the power
relations. Peasants are weak because they do not stand united, nor organized, nor
mobilized. Our present departmental and national organizations do not properly
safeguard the peasantry's interests.
Political Parties and the Peasantry
The peasantry of Bolivia has never really been affiliated to any political party because
none has represented its true interests nor have they proceeded out of inspiration from
its cultural values. However, we must recognize that the MNR more than any other party
has represented peasant interests by introducing land reform bills and universal suffrage.
The MNR was the first party ever to be sensitive enough to become an instrument for
peasant liberation, but all this was brought to a standstill because reactionary, rightist
elements without any social sensitivity penetrated into the ranks of this party and
managed to stop our ongoing liberation process.
Neither the MNR of today nor the partisans of Barrientos, nor the traditional left-wing
parties, have any peasant roots. When peasants have voted for them it is because they
had no alternative, because we have had no party of our own. These parties have utilized
the peasant vote as a means for reaching power and
remaining in it. For the sake of attaining a balance of interests and representation,
peasants should have their own party to represent their social, cultural and economic
interests. This will be the only way to achieve a real and positive political participation
and the only manner to make possible an authentic and all-embracing development of
rural areas. It is a grave mistake to think that economic and political progress in Bolivia
will be possible without the direct participation of the peasantry. The peasants have been
a passive political force because they have always been encouraged to remain in total
passivity. Politically speaking, the peasantry is what our politicians have wanted it to be:
nothing but a stepping-stone to be used for their own ambitions. It will only start to
move when it is free to act as an autonomous, aboriginal force. Within the economic,
political and cultural framework of our country it is impossible for the peasants to gain
true political participation because they are always left out. The Armed Forces of our
nation are basically composed of peasants and hence they should also reflect this fact in
their culture and ideas.
The Peasant Union Movement
Notwithstanding that the peasant union movement at grass-roots level and in many
provincial organizations is an authentically representative peasant organization, at
departmental and national level it has been exploited more than once for the benefit of
interests that have nothing at all to do with our class. All the faults of urban party
politics have spread to rural areas thanks to pseudoleaders who act as self-proclaimed
representatives of our people. They have been and still are corrupters of our people.
They are the ones who have sown sectarianism, political intrigues, nepotism, economic
and moral corruption, personal ambition, hatred within families, false rule by military
strongmen and lack of real representation all over the rural areas. Perhaps nothing,
however, has been so harmful to us as paternalism, ingenuously hoping for solutions to
come from outside and from above. The development of this country, especially of the
rural districts, has got to be brought about by ourselves, by the peasantry. Politically
speaking we have mostly been treated like children, and governments and bad leaders
have always tried to make the things which we had a right to obtain look like "gifts" or
For our limpid Inca history it is disgraceful that our alienated peasant leaders have
successively proclaimed all recent presidents of the Republic "Peasant Leaders". The best
thing which our governments and political parties could do would be to let us freely and
democratically elect our own leaders and give us an opportunity to elaborate our own
socio-economic policies based on our cultural background.
Our past - and even present - experience tells us that when the peasants of the Altiplano
are free to elect their "hilacatas", "hilancos" and other community authorities, they do
so in a democratic spirit and with the greatest courtesy and respect for other people's
opinions. The present internal conflicts among peasants have been a result of the
ambitions of outsiders throughout.
We face two extremely serious problems in rural education. One is that of curriculum
content and the other is the serious shortage of financial resources.
It is no secret that the rural school system has never been based on our own cultural
values; the curricula have been prepared by government officials and reflect ideas and
methods imported from other countries. Rural education has been a new form (the
most subtle) of domination and immobilization. Rural teacher training is nothing but a
brainwashing system for the future teachers in these areas. The education given bears
no relation to everyday reality, both in terms of the things taught and the methods
used by the teachers. It is not only the language which has nothing to do with our daily
life but also the history, heroes, ideals and values conveyed.
In terms of practical organization, rural schools are not far from being a
The education budget is insufficient and the allocated funds are,
unevenly distributed with a much greater share for urban than for rural areas. Even
today 51% of the children living in the rural areas cannot go to school for the simple
reason that no school is located near their homes. The countryside not only is short of
classrooms but also of books, blackboards, desks, and teaching materials, and above all
it lacks teachers who really appreciate and love our oppressed people.
We could go on pointing out all aspects of peasant life to show how it is lived amidst
the most appalling misery and in total neglect from our authorities. In the countryside
the revolution has got nowhere; it is yet to be done. However, it has to be done by
raising once again the banners and great ideals of Tupac Katari, Bartolina Sisa, Willca
Zárate, etc. It has to be done starting from ourselves.
On our legendary Altiplano, infrastructure works are non-existent; there are no roads,
no electricity, no hospitals, no progress. Transport facilities are poor, trading systems
out of date, technical training not worth mentioning. In the countryside an undue
number of rural schools are being set up as compared with the total lack of technical
schools. Virtually everything remains to be done. We do not want anybody to do it for
us,- we only want to be allowed to do it ourselves.
We do not wish to finish this document, which undoubtedly will be the origin of a
powerful, autonomous peasant movement, without inviting the press, the radio and all
institutions which sincerely want to improve our peasants' living conditions, to
encourage this noble desire to struggle for an authentic advancement of our people and
of all Bolivia.
The miners, factory workers, builders, transport workers, and the impoverished middle
classes are all our brothers and sisters, victims in different ways of the same
exploitation, descendants of the same race and united in solidarity for the same ideals
of struggle and liberation. Only united can we achieve a great future for our country.
Also we invite the Roman Catholic Church (to which the great majority of peasants
belongs), together with other Evangelical churches, to cooperate with us for this great
ideal of liberation for our Aymara and Quechua peoples. We wish to incorporate into
our lives all our cultural values without despising the
cultural treasures of other peoples,
La Paz, July 30, 1973.
Signed: Centro de Coordinación y Promoción Campesina
Asociación de Estudiantes Campesinos de Bolivia
de Profesores Campesinos.
(Translation: Courtesy of IWGIA, Copenhagen, 1978).
Source: Moody, Roger ed. The Indigenous Voice: Visions and Realities. 2nd Edition. Utrecht: International Books, 1988.
p.476-483. Taken from
The Indian Liberation and Social Movements in Kollasuyu (Bolivia) Julio
Tumiri Apaza (ed.) IWGLA Document No. 30, Copenhagen, May 1978.