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Volume 61 / Social Sciences


KEVIN J. HEALY, Foundation Representative, Inter-American Foundation, Rosslyn, Virginia

RECENT RESEARCH BY BOLIVIANS has increased the level of attention paid to the indigenous social movements that have proliferated and gained much social and political force since the pivotal year 2000. Indigenous mobilization is, of course, a Latin American-wide political phenomenon; yet in Bolivia, with its Quechua and Aymara majority, the impact of the indigenous movement on the national society, economy, and political culture has been profound especially in recent years. Often research on this topic turns to rural sindicalismo, both in its contemporary and ealier forms, as it has evolved in the countryside since the l952 social revolution and agrarian reform. Particularly noteworthy among works reviewed for HLAS 61 is the analysis of sindicalist politics since the return of elected civilian democracy by Ticona, an Aymara sociologist. His book focuses on the cultural politics of a changing political landscape among the Aymara sindicalistas (item #bi2005003728#). Using biographical analysis to examine leadership patterns, Ticona offers an effective and unusual, unvarnished look inside organizational and personal politics.

A historical perspective on the evolution of rural sindicalista politics and pressure group activities is also enriched by two works from CERES, a research center based in the Cochabamba region. The first of their publications examines experiences involving negotiations between the cocalero (coca leaf producers) sindicato federations and the national government within the framework of antidrug policies (item #bi2003001490#). These negotiations grow out of political mobilizations protesting crop eradication, militarization, and other government strategies by what is perhaps the country's most highly politicized and militant labor organization. The second CERES publication provides a quantitative overview of the types, frequency, and organizational control of protest events in Bolivia over an 18 year period (item #bi2003001487#). Unsurprisingly, road blockades are among the favored tactics, though somewhat unexpectedly, these blockades occur more frequently in urban rather than rural contexts. Out of this data, it is also possible to discern the social and political activism of the rural sindicatos. One would need a deeper contextual analysis than that provided to date by CERES, yet their publications do offer an interesting quantitative picture and raise many important questions. Albó provides a characteristic tour-de-force overview of the campesino-indigenous rural organizations representing the interests of the Bolivian popular sectors and sheds critical light on the weak mobilization capacity of the revitalized ayllu federations when compared to the well-developed and frequently deployed protest tactics of the rural sindicatos (item #bi2001008233#). The group of works on rural sindicalismo also includes an interpretive essay by a protagonist, Román Loayza Caero, a national peasant leader of the Confederación Unica Sindical de los Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CUSTCB) who offers his perceptions, opinions, and analysis (item #bi2003001466#).

Emerging areas of "problem-oriented social research" in Bolivia examine through a variety of sociological research techniques and lenses the issues surrounding drug abuse among students, which interestingly includes alcohol and tobacco in addition to marijuana, cocaine base, inhalants and others (item #bi2003001498#); child trafficking (item #bi2003001474#); child labor (item #bi2003001503#); employment discrimination toward women (item #bi2003001470#); domestic violence (item #bi2003001471#); and gang membership and behavior (item #bi2003001463#).

Although there are several works on neoliberalism, such as one on socioeconomic development in Potosí (item #bi2003001482#) and another on development and migration (item #bi2003001465#), the most innovative publication was an analysis of an applied grassroots development project which attempted to reintroduce Andean agricultural technologies such as Inca-styled terrace farming in communities near the Peruvian border (item #bi2003001483#). The book contains an unusually rich historical background chapter for a rural development project and provides a thoughtful analysis of this applied local development experiment through its various stages of evolution. There are numerous such grassroots development experiments in the Bolivian countryside yet few are as well-documented as this one.

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