Indigenous Revolution in Ecuador and Bolivia, 1990–2005
Uprisings by indigenous peoples of Ecuador and Bolivia between 1990 and 2005 overthrew the five-hundred-year-old racial and class order inherited from the Spanish Empire. It started in Ecuador with the Great Indigenous Uprising, which was fought for cultural and economic rights. A few years later massive indigenous mobilizations began in Bolivia, culminating in 2005 with the election of Evo Morales, the first indigenous president.
Jeffrey M. Paige, an internationally recognized authority on the sociology of revolutionary movements, interviewed forty-five indigenous leaders who were actively involved in the uprisings. The leaders recount how peaceful protest and electoral democracy paved the path to power. Through the interviews, we learn how new ideologies of indigenous socialism drew on the deep commonalities between the communal dreams of their ancestors and the modern ideology of democratic socialism. This new discourse spoke to the people most oppressed by both withering racism and neoliberal capitalism.
Emphasizing mutual respect among ethnic groups (including the dominant Hispanic group), the new revolutionary dynamic proposes a communal worldview similar to but more inclusive than Western socialism because it adds indigenous cultures and nature in a spiritual whole. Although absent in the major revolutions of the past century, the themes of indigenous revolution—democracy, indigeneity, spirituality, community, and ecology—are critically important.
Paige’s interviews present the powerful personal experiences and emotional intensity of the revolutionary leadership. They share the stories of mass mobilization, elections, and indigenous socialism that created a new form of twenty-first-century revolution with far-reaching applications beyond the Andes.