Bolivian Sociology 101: Ethnic groups in motion

This is a very interesting article written by Renzo Abruzzese in El Deber:

Ethnic groups in motion

Studies by Unir and Ciudadania foundations recorded a set of eye-catching data regarding ethnic dynamics in Bolivia. Information shows that inside the macro-ethnic structures, major transformations are taking place. The proportion of citizens who describe themselves as mestizo in 2006, for example, increased by 4% until 2008 and was reduced by 26% for 2011. Those who were recognized as indigenous went from 18% to 28% between 2006 and 2011, and which had been identified as whites decreased by 2% in the same period.

The information shows that ethno-cultural categories are also subject to an intense dynamic. Aymara Indians decreased 4% between 2006 and 2008, the Quechuas maintained stable their ethnic composition with a decline of just 0.4%; on the other hand, the Guarani declined 12.3% in the past three years. How do we interpret this phenomenon?

In principle, should assume that they are part of the transformations that are executed at the level of the historical matrix which entails the transformation of the State, from Republican to Plurinational, transformations that as mechanisms of participation of the power and possibilities of direct management of State apparatuses are mobilizing expectations and possibilities historically denied to these social sectors; the process of inclusion by itself moves segments and installs new sets by way of their ethnic affiliation, however, is not of a nomadic movement, but of an alteration of the notions of identity and access to power that should be studied more closely.

A second aspect that should be considered is the ‘societal’ effect involving these dynamics. Social fragmentation index reached for Bolivia in 2011, shows the value of 0.65, this implies that the probability that two randomly chosen subjects know each other (within a specific area, a condominium for example) is, in 65% of the cases, unlikely. The subjects isolate themselves and reduce their social interaction. One adds to this the index of social cohesion which for Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca and Beni shows alarming values: 0.49; 0.43 and 0.40, respectively. (0 = non-existent cohesion and 1 = total cohesion). The ties that bind subjects are weakened.

If we relate the dynamics of ethnic mobility and these indicators, the conclusion is largely obvious: ethnic tensions triggered by changes in the structure of the State and the certain possibility of a realignment of the apparatus of political and social power affect the cohesion and fragmentation of Bolivian society. This is typical of moments of change, but nevertheless it is a fact that should go unnoticed.

If the factors that act in these processes do not reach a degree of stabilization in the medium term, deep processes of social anomie invade forms of coexistence, triggering abnormal expressions such as criminality, development relentless violent forms of conflict resolution, racial tensions, xenophobia, ideological-cultural polarization and general social insecurity. In any case, the situation warrants in-depth research efforts and a clear awareness of the behavioral expansions of this phenomenon.

So, I was somehow [unfortunately] correct when I thought, over the last seven years, that current political party in power had managed to make us fight: poor against rich; western [colla] versus eastern [camba]; urban vs rural; this ethnic group against that ethnic group, etc. And, according to this article, chances are that things will worsen… so much for demagogue, portraying a ‘changing’ Bolivia…

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