This weeks’ film Cocalero takes a look at a campaign that was quite different from last weeks’ campaign film. This film is centered on presidential candidate Evo Morales and the farmers unions that formed in which he rallied behind. This campaign was wildly different from one expected to be seen and definitely different from that of most Americanized campaigns. Evo Morales was of the local indigenous population and his campaign focused on the support of the Bolivian farmers union in their fight for land rights and the eradication of the coca plant. Bolivia is a country with many issues and the one that seemed to be the most prominent in this film was that of racism and oppression towards the indigenous Indian population. The Indian population of Bolivia has been oppressed for decades, even centuries, but recently they have been organizing and standing up for their rights.
Les Field’s article Ecuador’s Pan-Indian Uprising discussed many of the movements and protests the Indian population organized in order to gain more rights and demand for property. The takeover of the Santo Domingo Cathedral in 1990 according to Field’s was, “the end of hundreds of years of life on the political periphery for the 40% of Ecuador’s 10 million people who are Indians.” The uprising from this sector of the population shouldn’t have come as a shock because almost half of Bolivia’s population were being denied land and rights that they saw as rightfully theirs’ for years. Through a series of political organizations and unions the indigenous population would eventually demand what they wanted as they did in the march on Santo Domingo Cathedral, the march to Quito, the march on Quite, and through their demands in political organizations and reforms introduced. From the mid twentieth century up until the present there were a series of groups such as Federation of Ecuadorian Indians, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, the Ecuadorian Institute for Land Reform and Colonization, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon to name a few that were instrumental in the fight for indigenous rights.
Evo Morales’s campaign exposed the issue of racist oppression in Bolivia and the struggle of the coca farmers supporting Morales. The fact is that while some may look at and not understand the position of the coca farmers it is a way of living and a source of life for them. Morales stated during the film that if he was elected president than he would like to redistribute some of the land on the eastern side of Bolivia to the indigenous farmers for more equality and claiming that the increase in agriculture would help the economy overall. This campaign was a struggle because of the still lingering racist ideals that some of the population still holds. It is evident in the film when some citizens of the wealthier parts of Bolivia are speaking out against Morales that they were generally more opposed to his race rather than his ideals. Of the people that were spoken with at locations such as the airport not even a few made comments about the platforms of his campaign, they simply wanted to comment on his ethnicity, background, and general lowliness as they saw it. However, with the indigenous movement that has been occurring ideas and the stereotypical subjugation has been disappearing along with the repressive regulations. Suzana Sawyer’s article in Latin American Perspectives stated, “Within the past 15 years, indigenous organizations in Ecuador have defined themselves through the imagery of the “nation.” In contrast to previous constructions whereby ethnic belonging resided in kingship, territory is now often the binding medium for local group identification.” This and the election of Evo Morales is a sign of a step in the right direction for the local Indian component of society.