RELEASE DATE: 23 Jul, 2018

EDITORIAL BY Caroline Risacher

Bolivia is a paradox. It’s one of the richestlands in South America (with vast depositsof lithium, silver, tin, natural gas and more),and it’s also one of the continent’s poorestnations, with extreme income inequality. Dueto Bolivia’s varied climate and topography – from the arid altiplano to the dense rainforests of the Amazon and thedry forests of the Chaco – its plant and animal diversityis unmatched. But for the Bolivian people, these naturalresources have turned out to be both a blessing and acurse.

This curse materialised with the 16th-century arrival of the Spaniards, who tried to homogenise and dilute the diversityof indigenous identities in order to exploit these resources.This continued until recently as the criolla upper classreinvented Bolivian identity upon the central notion ofbeing mestizo, and indigenous people were thwartedunder the assimilatory and reductive term of campesino

Since 2006 and the election of the current president,Evo Morales (the first indigenous president in the history of Bolivia), the country has had to grapple with thesecontradictions which have been defining it for hundredsof years: How to respect and value the diversity of ethnic particularities while at the same time uniting a nation around common ideas and values such as vivir bien? How to protect nature and culture and yet still exploit naturalresources whilst addressing environmental concerns andprotecting people’s rights? And how to build a unifying Bolivian national identity?

This issue of Bolivian Express deals with these weighty contradictions but also with the smaller concerns that surround us and are part of our everyday life: thealtiplano weather where one wears short sleeves at 4pm and a winter coat by 7pm, the eco-trucks carting away garbage whilst spewing dark gasoline emissions, the grumpy caserita who begrudgingly does you a favour byselling you a chocolate bar and the thousands of otheridiosyncrasies which make Bolivia the place we know andlove – but don’t always quite understand.But there are also a few less obvious contradictions thatare much more problematic and paint a darker Bolivia.Prisons here are places where children sometimes live,exiting and entering freely while their parents stay lockedinside. Despite achieving gender parity in the highestinstitutional offices and ranking second in the world infemale representation in government, Bolivia still hashigh rates of domestic violence, femicides and sexualharassment. Ultimately, to answer these questions and move past itsentangled history, Bolivia will have to base its future onlived and shared experiences; on its unique tapestry ofparticularities, specificities and richness; and on newlyforged paths that allow modernity and indigeneity tomove forward together, whilst the coountry navigates thecontradictions of its own identity.


San Juan

23 Jul, 2018 | Marion Joubert

Illustration: Oscar ZallesThe festival that rose from the ashesThe night is particularly freezing, but I wouldn’t advise you start a fire to warm up. On a night like this, a 24th of June, you risk a f...

El Club de las Malcogidas lights up La Paz

23 Jul, 2018 | Jack Francklin

Photo: Jack FrancklinDenisse Arancibia is the mastermind behind the immensely powerful musicalThe final showing on 4 July of the musical El Club de las Malcogidas brought an end to a production which...

Andean Contradictions

23 Jul, 2018 | Rafaela Alford

Illustration: Oscar ZallesBolivia’s indigenous philosophical traditionsThe Quechua and Aymara people of Bolivia and Peru have a cosmological vocabulary that helps to describe the relations between con...

The Wild Chinese Garlic Chase

23 Jul, 2018 | Stephanie Long

Photo: Stephanie LongWe look for the foreign plant, but find so much moreOur quest for Chinese garlic, which is reportedly infiltrating and damaging the Bolivian domestic garlic market, began with a m...

Beyond the Numbers

23 Jul, 2018 | Leigh Anderson

Photo: Courtesy of Coordinadora de La MujerChallenges Bolivian women face in spite of equal representation in parliamentWith women holding 53.1% of the seats in parliament as of 2017, Bolivia ranks se...

Growing Up In Prison

23 Jul, 2018 | Robyn Kate Pollard

Photo: Marion JoubertThe lives of children in Bolivian jailsRather than metal cell blocks meticulously controlled by guards armed with ammunition and authority, many Bolivian prisons could be describe...

‘Luchas para la transición’

23 Jul, 2018 | Jack Francklin

Photo: Jack Francklin The fight between society and technologyLuchas para la transición, a book written by Jorge Viaña Uzedia last year, provides a fascinating insight into socialism in Bolivia. The b...

El Valle de las Ánimas

23 Jul, 2018 | Charles Bladon

Photo: Gonzalo LasernaJust east of La Paz’s Zona Sur, the spires of el Valle de las Ánimas (‘Valley of the Souls’) hang over a carved-up glacial valley, resonating with a mystical quality. A mere one-...

Mayra Gonzales

23 Jul, 2018 | Charles Bladon

Photo: Jaime VargasA bastion of Bolivian folk musicNo doubt anyone who has paid mind to the music on the streets and in the nightclubs of La Paz would notice that the current generation is entranced b...

Beso de Chola

23 Jul, 2018 | Milo Clenshaw

Photos: Antonio Suárez and Alejandra SanchezThe art of empowerment: feminism, sexuality and the indigenous imageSince its conception in 2016, Beso de Chola, a performance piece and accompanying photo...


23 Jul, 2018 | Robyn Kate Pollard

Photos: Marion JoubertThe talent of amalgamating art and politicsA spacious workshop with a large window overlooking the mountains, home to an array of paints, brushes, oils, pencils and hundreds of b...

Voices From a University Protest

23 Jul, 2018 | Rafaela Alford

Photos: Poppy KoronkaContradictory narratives between media, State and peopleThe sounds of shouts, horns and flares accompanying bustling crowds, road blocks and picket signs often greet daily commute...

A Fisherman’s Life

23 Jul, 2018 | Katherina Sourine

Photos: Katherina SourineVisiting the Chilaya community on Lake TiticacaThe boat rocked gently and the crisp morning air facilitated a sense of clarity in the experience: tangling fish out of the net,...

Street and Urban Art according to Knorke Leaf

23 Jul, 2018 | Bridget Tahourdin

The prominent Bolivian street artist Knorke Leaf has much to say on the power of street and urban art: ‘It’s a spiritual power...’ she muses. ‘It’s in the colours.’ Her artistic actions and her involv...

Pure Pride

23 Jul, 2018 | Bridget Tahourdin

Photos: William WroblewskiLa Paz’s LGBT+ Community CelebratesLast month saw Pride marches across the globe celebrating the LGBT+ community. For some people, Pride is more than just that – it’s a celeb...