Military March & Indigenous Parade

Each year, the Bolivian military holds a parade in a different department (a department is like a state) of the country. This year, the parade took place in the Department of Santa Cruz on August 7.  For the first time in Bolivian history, indigenous people, dressed in traditional attire, marched in the parade alongside of the uniformed military personnel.  In the past, the military has been used as a tool to convert and assimilate indigenous people into the nation state through mandatory conscription.  This year´s parade was a show of peace and solidarity among the many indigenous groups as well as between the military and the majority indigenous population.  Additionally, this year marked the beginning of mandatory military conscription for women and it was the first military parade in which women participated. 

As the many indigenous groups marched together, showing off their distinct cultures, costumes, music, etc., the Morales administration attempted to move the country beyond regionalist thinking and toward a more unified, pluri-ethnic nation.  And holding this event in Santa Cruz this year was symbolic, and sent a clear message in opposition to the autonomy movement.  This event is just one more indication of the broader political economic shifts that are taking place in Bolivia at the present moment.

The business community of Santa Cruz felt like the central government was trying to intimidate them, and noted in the national papers that the indigenous organizations were actually armed militias.  They spread rumors that the parade and consequent “Andean invasion” would bring violence to the city (although the event was entirely peaceful).

We attended this historic event and we will post photos to our flickr account when we are able to do so.  (We´ve been trying to write a post about this for nearly 2 weeks!  Better late than never!)


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