Bolivia, first State of multiple localities

The Plaza 24 September


Rodrigo Nicolas Albornoz

Like many other cities of the South American continent, Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia was built in the order of the Spanish Colonial style, generated by a grid of blocks with the starting point at the Plaza 24 September. This site, right in the centre of the city, concentrates a collection of unique buildings of great heritage and colonial value. Such institutions physically represent the Colonial Matrix of Power: The Metropolitan Cathedral of Santa Cruz, the Colonial Cabildo Government building, the Parliamentary Brigade, the Social Club 24 September, and the iconic Palace Theatre, today converted into an administrative building for the Municipal Autonomous Government. The Plaza has also been the site of protests and manifestations by Indigenous people in Bolivia since the 1990s, as well as the recent confrontations against Evo Morales’ re-election in November of 2019.

The latter pressure on Morales’ mandate -sparked by a Right Liberal Party supported by OAS and the EU- culminated in the boycott of Evo Morales’ elections for the 4th presidency of the former leader of Bolivia, concluding with the assassinations of many Indigenous people by the Military forces. Thinking about the challenges and difficulties inherent to the process of decoloniality implemented for the last 21 years of Evo Morales’ and Alvaro Garcia Linera’s leadership, the cause of the Indigenous people of Bolivia had gathered so much support among many sectors of society all over the country, as well as criticism from the professional workers and Western European minded population. Nonetheless, the government of the time could no longer ignore the demands put forward by the Indigenous peoples. Presenting the Indigenous movements as a political and social force, the lead of Evo Morales Ayma to the presidency pushed forward the adoption of a new Constitution where the Indigenous communities could finally regain their rights, their territories, and their dignity. On the other hand, the change of the Constitution was also in favour of the re-election of Morales, and was used as an instrument of opposition by the Right Liberal party against the 4th mandate of the President. Under the leadership of Morales-Linera, Bolivia declared itself as a first ‘Pluri-national State;’ a state of many nations, cultures and languages; a state of multiple localities or even ‘Glocal Communities’.

The mandate of Morales-Linera, for the first time in the South American History, recognises the Indigenous ways of doing politics and justice, as well as the injustices committed to the Indigenous peoples, for example, by recognising their historical rights over their territories. Engaging with the challenges of these native communities, and the discussion on coloniality and modernity taken from the theories of Walter Mignolo and Anibal Quijano, the site explores new ways of thinking and becoming that emerge out of the experience of doing decoloniality on site, through government action and social movements.

How and why does coloniality reproduce and perpetuate itself so easily in our thinking, our practices, as well as in our politics and institutions? How can we challenge subjectivity by looking at the colonial structures of power through a ‘delinking’ from the notion of modernity? Through the analysis of concepts developed by the literature associated with the decolonial turn, and how modernity and coloniality are related -the first as a consequence of the second- this site shows us the implications and confrontations between contemporary thinking and doing in a decolonial way against established Western Neoliberal politics within the colonial countries of South America.