A Revolution for Our Rights

Author: 
Gotkowitz, Laura

Gotkowitz, Laura. A Revolution for Our Rights Indigenous Struggles for Land and Justice in Bolivia, 1880-1952. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007.

Focused on indigenous organizing and politics in pre-1952 Cochabamba, Laura Gotkowitz’s A Revolution for our Rights tells the story of the “revolution before the revolution.” This book is key because it fleshes out the intricacies, associations and years of struggle that often get written out of narratives of revolution. Thus while it does not discuss the land reform implemented as part of the Bolivian National Revolution, it meticulously lays out the legal battles, confrontations and protests launched by rural people for some 70 years before. Stressing legal battles, Gotkowitz shows how communities mobilized against the Liberal project fighting for corporate “absolute rights to property” in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Additionally they often fought for recognition of their right to rights. For instance, as a result of the 1945 Indigenous Congress a series of laws protecting colonos from their hacienda owners were passed. However, it was up to the communities to ensure that the laws were observed; Villarroel made no effort to enforce them.

As important as the emphasis placed on legal battles, is Gotkowitz’s unearthing of the dense network of associations that fueled indigenous and colono mobilization in Cochabamba. First off, struggles were often waged as indigenous community members and hacienda colonos together. Moreover, Gotkowitz shows how they were linked to urban labour movements, like the Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores de Bolivia (CSTB), as well as radical parties and organizations.

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