Do Bolivians have an identity?

Carlos Toranzo writes in Pagina Siete:

The Bolivian

Carlos ToranzoA discussion that is part of the social and political debate of the last thirty or forty years in Bolivia, especially since the time of the visibility of the “kataristas” cultural currents, refers to the need to find or define the identity of Bolivia.

All reflection struggled and still struggles to determine what defines the Bolivian public, what makes us who live in this country, this nation, in this Republic. So far, dozens of responses have not been convincing for those who have entered the controversy. Perhaps the disagreement regarding the answers have to do with the fact that they tried to define the identity of the Bolivian as something singular, as one thing, when in fact the identity should be defined from the plural; talking about identities or identities of complex, mixed, to refer to the many features that characterize the populations.

It is difficult to speak in the singular identity of Bolivia, it was unfinished when the process of creation of the national state and when it has not built a common us, that allows us to pursue a future vision more or less shared among all Bolivians.

We know that Bolivia is a regional diverse country ethnically, socially, culturally, and are also different religions or customs of those who inhabit this country. We must be careful to believe that Bolivia is the only country that has these characteristics. Almost all the republics, all nations are diverse and probably much more than ours. China is, India or, to put it simply, Bolivia is nothing in terms of social diversity compared with the populations of New York or London.

This implies that we are not the center of diversity nor its most emblematic example. Only a provincial look of ourselves can lead us to understand as the great example of the social, political, cultural and so on. We are different, but not the typical case of diversity, or the most complex or the most difficult of cultural mixes and of all kinds.

But what would settle the discussion on the identity of the Bolivian postulate that one must refer to plural identities? We have five centuries of mixing between the first generations of settlers with native, then native with creole, creole with cholos, between them and mestizos, among indigenous people, peasants, Afro-European migrants from all corners mixed with indigenous today not as indigenous by the passage of centuries and cultural mixtures-, with creoles, mestizos; those five centuries of mixtures, racial, political, cultural would not have generated some common things, customs, values, complexes, desires, between those who populate this country?

It is that two centuries of construction of the Republic will not have cultivated some common bonds? Is there no connections, similarities, communities among us? Then the question: will not be maximalist the idea of having a common us exclusively involving homogeneity, when societies are also defined by its heterogeneity?

Perhaps an important point of departure in Bolivia postulate that there is no common absolutely shared by us all Bolivians, by all who populate this country. But perhaps a more accurate starting point postulate that has not fully we built a common, but there is part of that construction, there is some progress, or to not give value judgments, something has come in that path.

Again, no matter to put value judgments, but making a description, and it emphasizes that much of the population, or most of it, you feel Bolivia, or to relativize the claim, it feels also Bolivian, as simultaneously you can feel other things.

These are precisely the ties of community that have been built in history. They are not minor phenomena, are not trivial issues which show that Bolivians, or most of them, sing the national anthem or have respect for the tricolor; this happens even in the most remote rural school, though probably not happen in the rural community or far away where a school have not reached ayllu.

Do not put these descriptions a value judgment, but only have the ability to describe, to narrate these practical facts; close our eyes to these realities, it implies not to see the country. If we do this, we talk about the construction of reality, some may say it is a construction by the powerful, of those in power. Whether true or not, this construction is a practical fact, it is a reality and not an abstract concept; therefore, the Bolivian is right before our eyes.

Carlos Toranzo Roca, is an economist.

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