A New Bolivia?

Alma Guillermoprieto in the New York Review of Books:

BoliviabigBolivia, a country with an area approximately twice the size of France, has barely nine million inhabitants, most of whom identify themselves as members of one of the pueblos originarios: the Aymara, Quechua, and Guaranì Indians, who are descendants of the great nations that inhabited the Andes and the jungle before the Conquest, and who were subsequently condemned to lives of odious isolation and unimaginable servitude. Serfdom was abolished at last in 1945, and during the revolution of 1952 latifundio land was distributed to the peasants in the Andes, but the average income for members of the pueblos is still well below a thousand dollars a year. Most other Bolivians are racially indistinguishable from the proclaimed pueblos originarios, and are almost as poor; these are the mestizos and urbanized Indians widely and sometimes insultingly called cholos, who in the Bolivian Andes throng the cities of La Paz, El Alto, Oruro, and Cochabamba, and in the tropics, Santa Cruz.

For its entire post-Conquest existence, Bolivia has survived through one principal export: first the silver from the mountain of Potosì that made the Spanish Golden Age possible; rubber from the Amazon region; then tin from the mines of Potosì and Oruro; coca paste for cocaine, briefly; and now gas from subterranean reserves that are estimated to be the second-largest in South America.

More here.