Bolivia’s first indigenous president was not Morales

From Augusto López Claros, Executive Director, Global Governance Forum, Washington, DC, US

I read with interest your thoughtful, balanced editorial [Financial Times] on the recent resignation of president Evo Morales and the protests that led to it (“Morales leaves behind a sad legacy in Bolivia”, November 14). As has been done frequently by the international press, you refer to Mr Morales as Bolivia’s “first indigenous president”.
This is a statement of questionable historical accuracy. Andrés de Santa Cruz Calahumana was president of Bolivia between 1829 and 1839. He had a Spanish father and a native Indian chief mother (Juana Basilia Calahumana) and was born in a village near La Paz called Huarina.
We refer (correctly in my view) to Barack Obama as the US’s first African-American president, knowing full well that his father was Kenyan and his mother a white American. Logic and consistency should dictate that we refer to Santa Cruz Calahumana as the first indigenous president of Bolivia. The idea that this privilege fell to Mr Morales has been actively propagated by him and has been reinforced by the media, ignoring the fact that, in fact, Bolivia is largely a country of mestizos. I do not know many Bolivians who, with a straight face, can claim to be totally “white”, meaning of pure European ancestry. Indeed, Mr Morales’ own name is of Spanish origin.
Augusto López Claros
Executive Director, Global Governance Forum, Washington, DC, US

Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

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