Cocalero details the campaign of Evo Morales, an indigenous candidate in Bolivia who is not afraid of his indigenous background. He eventually wins election, becoming the first indigenous president of Bolivia. Morales’s campaign has definite parallels with the indigenous actions in Ecuador in the early 90’s. Both use political tactics that focus on identity and presence, all while mostly working within the established political frameworks of their countries.
In 1990, a group of indigenous groups peacefully assembled in a cathedral in Quito, refusing to move until their demands for land redistribution and recognition of their culture be met (Field 39). But the cathedral was only one part of a nation-wide protest by indigenous people that included “roadblocks, market boycotts, local government office occupations, and land seizures” (Sawyer 69-70). All of these actions are designed to demonstrate the presence of the indigenous community in Ecuador. Presence equals power, and for a community that had been virtually invisible since the colonial period, showing their power through their numbers and actions earns them political clout that they have never had before.
Morales uses the same tactic of asserting presence but in a different way. Bolivia is a country that is anywhere from 40% to 80% indigenous. Morales turns these empty statistics into political cash by assembling these groups of people, making their presence known and their numbers count. In Cocalero, there is a transformation of the indigenous community from silent majority to active political presence. Morales utilizes rallies as well as working through the unions on voter training to win 54% of the vote and become president. Many of those votes come from the indigenous populations who were encouraged to show their political presence at the polls.
But more than just numbers, Morales and the Ecuadorian use the politics of identity to untie and empower the indigenous communities. Morales never denies his indigenous heritage. In fact, he is proud of it, even sporting a suit with traditional indigenous designs when he becomes president. In the same way, the protestors in Ecuador wore their traditional garb on their march (Sawyer 65). Not only is presence important to these two movements but so is identity. By wearing traditional clothes, the protestors and Morales are affirming their Indian heritage. They are also unifying many different groups by celebrating indigenousness and separating themselves from the identity of the middle and upper classes.
Both Morales and the indigenous organizations in Ecuador also worked within mostly legal channels to achieve their goals. The organized groups in Ecuador had “16 demands that [summarized] how … to end the subjugation of indigenous” (Field 40). They then met with the government to try and see how best to meet this demands. Although there were other actions that put pressure on the government, the native peoples mostly worked within legal channels. They did not stage a coup or a revolution, but instead presented a petition. In the same way, Morales ran for president working within the current political system of his country. While both groups used some extra-legal means to gain power as well, they did not achieve power through a destruction of the old system, but rather worked within the current political framework of their countries to achieve their goals.
Ultimately, there are many similarities between the campaign of Morales and the Ecuadorian protestors in the early 1990’s. Both groups focus on identity and presence to achieve their goals within the framework of their country’s political systems.