Statement from Colectivo Curva on the resistance of the people of El Alto in response to the ongoing coup attempt in Bolivia. Based in El Alto themselves, Colectivo Curva argue that the native peoples of El Alto remember their history of struggle against the Morales government: they do not fight for him and his party, but against an attack on their communities from the far-right coup plotters.
I write for those that have kept silent and for us that are on the streets, for the aymara youth we have many times observed and heard without saying anything back unwilling to do something in face of the political situation, in face of the age old battle between the right and left represented in the political parties of MAS (Evo) and CC (Mesa).
The native nations, or as we are called “indigenous peoples”, have suffered for more than a decade the attrition and the instrumentalisation of our cultural elements by MAS. For a moment we believed that it was our government, because there was a brown face guiding the country, a person similar to us. That is over! It ended when that same government started slaughtering the people that it had fought for and defended.
The city of El Alto has a historic memory, it is located geographically in battlefields. Precisely in the camping zone of Tupak Katari and Bartolina Sisa. There live the same descendants of that courageous generation that died while killing in 1781, and, yes in 2003 (the gas wars) it was also a battlefield. Then, our battle was victorious in expelling a foreigner that pretended to be a politician.
Yesterday, after the indigenous president’s resignation (on whom many people had kept their hopes on) or at the moment of hearing of his resignations, my brown and humble people had a face of defeat, full of tears and impotence.
11th of November: Things have not changed, not a lot. Alteños are yelling “El Alto de pie, nunca de rodillas” (El Alto Stands, never kneels). Until yesterday, we were wondering whether we should be doing this or that. We didn’t know whether to support Evo Morales and what he had done in his government or what he represented. We also didn’t know whether to support the fight of the other side led by racist leaders and executioners who claim to be democratic and anti-racist but who in their act burn the flaming symbol of the anticolonial fight: the Wiphala. The side that kicks indigenous women, that spew their hatred in the streets. It’s simple, what you see is what is, there is no such thing as victimising.
Until yesterday, El Alto was between a rock and a hard place. Why support a “dictator”? Why support the representatives of burnings, kickings and hatred spewing? Why support and join either of these parties if they do not reflect what we really feel and think as alteños/as? And, as it has always been in history, the more difficult moments show who is who and which blood calls upon which blood.
Nonetheless, we can be certain of something: a confrontation has begun with the heirs of the republic caste that do not accept cultural and social diversity; that battle began centuries ago, and that now came again in the last days against the aymara, quechuas and other nations. We are being touted as Evo supporters, as vandals, as gangsters, as rascals that foster chaos. We are being accused of being part of looting groups... on which ground? The only purpose of these claims is to delegitimise with one word: masista! (Evo supporter). And what of our rejection to the actions they perpetuated? They say NOTHING, not a single word.
The burning of our flaming symbol and the wrong accusation of the Wiphala as a symbol of MAS, has resurrected the fighting spirit of the people of El Alto. And as always we are alone. Like in 2003, with a police force that has sold out and now defends a specific social sector and that gases us with tear gas and that shoots at the youth, at innocent girls, YES, at innocent girls that only observed or accompany their mother. Which nation are these officers defending?
Listen. The one that blocks the roads is not an Evo supporter, the one that is angered at the burning of their symbol, at the indifference, at the authoritarianism, they are not Evo supporters, no, no and a thousand times no. Understand that those in the streets are not masistas (Evo supporters), they are a society, it is a city of migrants within their aymara territory that is mobilising. It is the aymara city. They are the veterans of 2003. They are the orphans of those that lost their parents due to bullets from a government that now advocates democracy. They are not Evo supporters. They are alteños and alteñas that are fighting. They are Aymaras.
El Alto, November 2019
Ivan Apaza Calle