Sunday, January 26, 2014

Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia

And I'm back!  As anticipated, school is kicking my butt a little bit (maybe not quite as much as the kiswahili language school the Tanzanian lay missioners are currently attending...), which means I spend FAR more time studying and FAR less time blogging :)  For those who are curious, below is a picture of my textbook.
So far, I love my textbook.  According to my teachers, it's actually written for students who live in the United States and don't speak Spanish BUT have Spanish speaking parents originally from Spanish speaking countries.  Eesh!  Hope that last sentence made sense...  The book is broken up into  10 chapters, with each chapter covering a bit of the history and present day reality of a specific region in the Spanish speaking world.  For example, the first chapter focuses on the United States and Puerto Rico.  Immigration from Central and South America to the United States is the big topic in the US section.  

But enough about my book :)  Onto the topic I want to discuss today: Plurinationalism and Bolivia!  This past Wednesday (January 22) was a national holiday for Bolivia (officially titled Plurinational State Foundation Day).  It celebrated the day back in 2009 when President Evo Morales enacted a new Bolivian Constitution and re-founded Bolivia as a Plurinational State.  This "re-foundation" was an effort to demonstrate that Bolivia is not made up of one uniform group of people, or one "nation," but instead encompasses many nations of peoples living together in one state and having equal status and equal rights.  The new Constitution speaks to this idea directly by granting, "equal protection to all Bolivians" and guaranteeing "equal opportunities for people in the city and the country [the country folk are more typically of indigenous descent], and equality, dignity, and freedom for all Bolivian people."  As I'm sure you can imagine, like many other places in the world, the indigenous people living in Bolivia have historically been discriminated against and been treated as those of a lower class. This new Constitution is supposed to stop this discrimination (according to my host mother, it even includes sections that out-law the use of certain derogatory words traditionally used to describe indigenous people) and promote pride for one's indigenous identity and/or ancestry. 

With this new Constitution and re-foundation also came the edition of a second Bolivian flag to represent the Plurinational State of Bolivia.  Below are pictures of the two Bolivian flags:

The flag on the left is the original flag of Bolivia created and approved way back in the mid 1800s.  The flag on the right is the Wiphala flag, which, as stated above, was adopted as a national symbol by the new Constitution enacted in 2009.  "Wiphala" is an Aymara word meaning "flag."  The Aymara are one of the largest indigenous groups living in Bolivia (only slightly second to the Quechua) and are a native nation of the Andes and Altiplano (ie. very high Andean plateau) region of Bolivia, Peru, and Chile.  The majority of the Aymara live in what is present day Bolivia, with a large concentration found in La Paz.  (Fun fact: President Evo Morales is himself Aymara.)

So there you have it.  Everything I picked up from my host mother and Spanish teachers about Plurinational State Foundation Day.  My greatest source of information was one of my Spanish teachers who himself is Aymara and originally from La Paz.  According to him, although the new Constitution and the election of Bolivia's first indigenous President (Evo Morales) have not been "fix-alls" in the area of indigenous rights in Bolivia, they certainly have been very powerful tools in the fight for equality for all Bolivians.  How exciting :)  I hope that in my time spent in Bolivia I will get to understand this struggle better and find ways to assist in promoting this wonderful idea of "equality, dignity, and freedom for all Bolivian people."


  1. hey! i recognize that flag from mklm headquarters! thanks for bringing it all together for me. :)

  2. Caitlin,
    I am learning so much from reading your blog. Thanks for the education! Maybe you can get one of the new flags.