Historically, Indigenous people have been amongst the most economically deprived and excluded of all the demographics found throughout Latin America. Not only have they faced severe discrimination in terms of their basic right-of-access to their ancestral land, their cultures, languages, and forms of governance; but also in relation to access to basic social services such as education, water, sanitation, and housing, which are all the necessary material conditions needed to live a satisfactory standard of living.
The country with the largest proportion of indigenous people in Latin America is Bolivia with 62% of the total population considers themselves to be of native descent. The main indigenous groups within Bolivia are Quechua and Aymara which constitute the majority of the population throughout the northern region of the Aliplano, as well as in the upper valleys and basins of the Andes. Indigenous people in Bolivia suffered tremendously, primarily as a result of Spanish Colonisation as these colonisers exploited the cheap and widely available indigenous labour for activities such as mining and agriculture. During this period, it was difficult for indigenous people to escape from this life of exploitation under the the Spanish as many were enslaved. This led many migrated to cities with a lower percentage of Spanish population and where there was a high demand for tradespersons and domestic staff. As of this, the Spanish and their descendants took the dominant positions in society, as it greatly impacted the way social classes were viewed up until the late 20th century. Therefore, Mestizos and indigenous people were the subordinate class along with people who worked in the mines. In this essay I will go into detail of how indigenous people in Bolivia continued to suffer after the Bolivian Revolution in 1951 and how neoliberalism and the emergence social movements greatly affect the indigenous community.
Bolivia, located in the centre of the Southern Andean Mountains has been a land accented with a predominantly long problematic past. The country has had 84 presidents from 1825 to the present day as well as even more military coups that have interrupted its post-Independence political history. Amerindians in Bolivia have been involved in an endless struggle since the colonial period as political authorities and later systems have been tarnished for indigenous oppression and exploitation. Through many different decades of different methods of protest and empowerment, the indigenous peoples of Bolivia have endeavored to reclaim their inherited rights such as communal lands, independence, and negotiated rule. In Bolivia today, indigenous peoples are finally beginning to grasp these rights they have sought for the last 500 years. Hensley
Due to the loss of the Chaco war it led to great dissatisfaction with the ruling elite which resulted the National Revolutionary Movement to emerge in 1951. After firstly being denied victory that year in the presidential elections, they led a successful revolution in 1952.  This revolution began when a hunger march through La Paz attracted most segments of society. The Bolivian military was severely demoralized, and the high command called unsuccessfully for unity in the armed forces. Many officers assigned themselves abroad, charged each other with coup attempts, or deserted. Throughout this the revolution they introduced universal adult suffrage, carried out a sweeping land reform, promoted rural education, and nationalized the country’s largest tin mines under Victor Paz. Victor Paz served as president of Bolivia until 1956 as under the country’s establishment, he could not serve more than one term at a time. Hernan Siles was another leader of the Revolutionary Movement then Zuazo, was then elected president. He served as Bolivia’s president until 1960, when Paz was re-elected. But a military uprising forced Paz from office in 1964.
Although the revolution was successful with having a great political significance, it failed to empower the indigenous people. As a result of the 1952 popular insurrection under the leadership of the Nationalistic Revolutionary Movement (MNR), a major land reform was implemented in 1953. Which changed the stigmatizing term “Indian” with “campesinos” (Molina 2009). The land reform focused on the rights of individuals to own land and did not take the shared construction of indigenous organizations into consideration. The reforms were based on the ideology of the “peasantry,” thus assuming peasants to be the natural ally for the urban “working class” in a common class struggle against the entrepreneurial class. The agrarian reform had a double-edged effect on indigenous peoples. On the one hand, the Aymara as a group benefited from the redistribution of lands, but on the other the class ideology of the reform undermined indigenous identity and tried to “integrate” indigenous peoples into the “campesino” class (Healy, 2001).
Amid 1964, President Paz Estenssoro was exiled by a coup drove by his Vice President, Barrientos. The following twenty years in Bolivian history came to be characterized by a progression of battle ready despots, discontent and slaughters of mineworkers and their families. Additionally, amid this time came constant financial changes that had an antagonistic effect on the indigenous individuals’ lifestyle. The military government tried to balance out the political condition by pulling in outside speculation and capital and attempted serious “modernization” endeavours to depoliticize mass legislative issues
In the vicinity of 1971 and 1979, the military kept on endeavouring to diminish the requests from the indigenous individuals and campesinos through power under the administer of Colonel Hugo Suarez Banzar. Colonel Banzar consistently curbed work, labourers, understudies and political gatherings with a specific end goal to advance his own particular welfare. (Spirits 2009). Thusly, with the progressing concealment of class-based conditions and the descending cycling economy, old types of ethnic character remerged and in the long run prompted general mass dissents.
What’s more, the majority of the previously mentioned factors prompted the development of the Katarista (named for the authentic Aymaran pioneer, Tupaj Katari) and Indian developments of the 1970s and the 1980s (Van Cott 2000). These developments looked to restore the legislature to a popular government and one in light of non military personnel manage and a dynamic common society. The Katarista development significantly affected the part of the indigenous group, especially on the ladies inside society. These developments looked to build ethnic awareness, re-establish indigenous group customs and take out financial and social segregation of the indigenous population.
Later in 1980s, neoliberal adjustments social movements emerged which led indigenous people into poverty by the new structured adjustment program introduced by the Bolivian Government in 1985. This program was named “New Economic Policy” in which came from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as recommendations and was the first wave of neoliberal adjustments that hit Bolivia. These recommendations aimed at stabilizing and restructuring the Bolivian Economy. At first the programme had major positive impacts on indigenous peoples of Bolivia as the policies of the programme combined extensive economic returns, such as the privatization of state-owned enterprises, with progressive policies of decentralisation, education reforms and land reforms. The reason for these policies to have had the positive impact on indigenous people was that they led to a stabilization of prices and the economy as a whole and the goal was shared by the majority of politician parties. However, those positive impacts soon came to an end and many indigenous people especially the Aymara and Quechua people whom in which embedded into the market economy than other indigenous peoples from the eastern lowlands. (Gilger, 2009). During this period, labor organizations were undermined and the social costs rose for the poorest parts of the population, especially the indigenous peasants. Poverty increased more than twenty percent in the first ten years and large parts of the working class such as ex- miners, peasants, and the unemployed found occupation in the informal sector or in small-scale agricultural production. (Siotos,).