In spite of this, the local customs never really went away; they were passed on through the pueblos and waited until the dawn of the 21st century to emerge again in the cities. Indeed, over the last few years, many efforts have been made to reinstate and preserve these original cultures, as well as to put an end to oppression against individuals on the base of their culture, ethnicity, or creed. Indigenous languages (such as Aymara) are nowadays both taught in schools and demanded from all civil servants. Discrimination against groups of people - (such as the cholitas or Afro-Bolivianos we cover in this issue) is punishable by the law, opening new possibilities for groups which were hitherto relegated to the margins of society. They now increasingly constitute government and occupy a larger range of positions of authority in society.
Although these changes in the law have been celebrated across the borders, it would be naive to assume that they will have an immediate and lasting impact on social barriers and power structures. Certain prejudices have been ingrained for so long that it may take generations for things to truly change. This has meant that vulnerable groups can- not always fully integrate in a society with too many margins and no clear unifying centre around which they can coalesce.
Interestingly, the ensuing process of amalgamation between disparate peoples has not been a homogenising one: if anything, it has produced a yet larger fragmentation of cultures and customs, as well as the emergence of new ones. Notably, emerging groups which are perhaps byproducts of modernity and liberalism (such as drag-queens and expats) have been added to this interminable list of minorities. Bolivia is a land of extremes. This not only applies to its landscapes but also to its people, whose multiple backgrounds and cultures are said to be represented on the wiphala, the indigenous flag. Faced with the irreconcilable tension between traditions and modernity, groups must anchor their identities more strongly, lest they become diluted and vanish completamente.
ARTICLES FROM THIS ISSUE
Back to Aymara
18 Jul, 2011 | Maryam Patwa
It is dispiriting (though perhaps inevitable) that Aymara, once the dominant language of large sections of Bolivia and neighbouring Andean regions, has become relegated to the backstage of everyday li...
Blonde but Bolivian
18 Jul, 2011 | Camilla Swift
Expats and their offspring After 5 months of living and working in La Paz, I became increasingly intrigued with the idea of expats who, by moving abroad, end up raising their children in a differen...
From Africa to the Andes
18 Jul, 2011 | Nina Triado and Georgia Wolf
After a frightening number of cases of discrimination against afrobolivians were disregarded by the Bolivian government, Jorge Medina eventually made a breakthrough in his struggle for the recognition...
18 Jul, 2011 | Seneca Garrison
What makes a cholita a cholita. There’s no need to go looking for cholitas around La Paz. It would be unusual and even noteworthy not to bump into one while walking around town or glancing down a bu...
Living the death road
19 Jul, 2011 | Ivan Rodriguez P.
Part 1 As you wake up early in the morning, you experience your first adrenaline rush as you understand that you’re about to start one of the most intense days of your life; or at least, that’s w...