Cocalero follows Evo Moralez during his 2005 campaign for president of Bolivia. This movie highlights the evolving political situation in the Andean nations. Coupling a young democratic government with oppression and depravity gives a proportionally large group a great chance for success. In Cocalero, the coca farmers of the Andes region are in the face of US eradication support, but rally together in coca unions. This movie has a sense of retaliation, perhaps revolution albeit tame, by the coca growers in an effort to gain rights and representation in government. Coming from a cocalero background, Evo Moralez aims to improve coca farmers’ rights in Bolivia.
The 1990 and 1992 Ecuadorian Indian movements are similar to the 2005 movement in Bolivia. In the 1990 movement, as in the film, the Indians employed simple measures to halt all transportation and logistics within the country. Les Field comments that this action “[revealed] the country’s dependence on native farmers” due to “certain spot shortages of certain products” (39). This kind of tactic emphasizes the unexpected intelligence of Latin America, which recognizes its logistical dependence on agricultural production. Just as the other large trends in Latin America have followed, Ecuador followed a different venue for the issue of workers’ rights. In Ecuador in 1992, concern over land, particularly the forests, stemmed from a belief that all of the contested lands belong to the Indians.
The cause of the uproar among Indians in Ecuador, as in Bolivia, revolves around the land, partially related to oil. Beginning with seismic petroleum exploration in a region of the rain forest and n indigenous blockade of the single airstrip in the area, which prevented the explorers from leaving, indigenous people feared colonization and petroleum development on their land (Sawyer 69). The indigenous sought political means to their communal ownership of land. They argued that their agricultural production, on their ancestral lands, was in the best interest of preserving the rain forest (Sawyer 71). Sawyer’s article quotes unidentified indigenous people saying, “We manage…the lungs of the world and the patrimony of all living species on the planet” (71). This kind of mentality is used by Evo in the film to justify his background as a coca farmer. He says the coca leaf is, according to a Harvard University study, one of the healthiest substances on the earth. Using an American college’s study to promote his political agenda to end American imperialism and capitalism is odd, to say the least.
The political urgency seen in the farmers in Cocalero is one of fear, fear of losing that which supports their livelihood. In order to avoid the same oppression in other Andean countries, such as the events outlined in Les Field’s article. Indigenous farmers sought to prevent the influx of mestizo farmers and stop the attempts of American missionaries, who sought to “civilize” the indigenous (43). It makes sense that Evo Morales and his campaign “team” chose to wear traditional indigenous clothing and listen to the wishes and needs of the people.