Week 14- Cocalero

Cocalero is a 2007 documentary that follows Evo Morales on his journey to become president of Bolivia. It was written and directed by Alejandro Landes. Evo is an indigenous Bolivian and the movie focuses on the mobilization of the indigenous population cocoa growers that would take the majority vote in the electorate and give Evo Morales the presidency.

What is different about the mobilization in Cocalero is how the indigenous Indians went about demanding their power. In the readings there were two different examples of indigenous peoples demanding their rights. The first article covered the pan-Indian uprising in Ecuador. (Field) In this case the Indians of Ecuador were tired of the treatment they received from Ecuador’s government. In response to this they blockaded the roads with rocks and shut down much of the economy, causing shortages in places. (Field, 39) They gained power by showing the country that it could not run without them and that if their demands were not met, then they would continue to blockade. They also made demands, many of which were directly related to their need for land that was their own. For instance, they released a list of 16 demands such as “1. Return of lands and territories taken from indigenous communities, without costly legal fees. 3. No municipal taxes on small properties owned by indigenous farmers.” (Field, 41) They wanted their lands back and they used protest to get it back. The force was not violent, but it was strong enough to stop the economy and force the government to the negotiating table. This was completely different from what happened in Bolivia.

The second article, written by Suzana Sawyer, covers indigenous mobilization in Lowland Ecuador during 1992. These indigenous people marched to the country’s capital demanding “the communal titling of 2,000,000 hectares of contiguous rainforest territory and constitutional reform declaring Ecuador a plurinational and pluricultural state.” (Sawyer, 65) They marched on the capital to change the government and convince it to change the way things were. But they did not replace the government. They chose to work within in. This is markedly different from what happened in Bolivia.

In Bolivia Evo Morales was able to take power and become president of Bolivia. There were not marches or strikes. Instead the indigenous peoples were mobilized democratically into their own party which elected their own candidate to lead the country. Cocalero showed that the cocoa growers were able to achieve unity. While this unity may have been coerced, as shown by the Catholic priest and the scenes about voting “correctly,” they still were a unified group. They also happened to make up over 40% of the voting population. Since Bolivia has several different political parties, Evo taking over 40% of the vote was a landslide and it was the fractured political landscape of Bolivia that allowed this to happen. But what remains important in light of the readings is that Evo and his indigenous constituents were able to become PART of the government. They did not change it through marches and strikes, but rather they took control over the government and made it work for them instead of simply changing the government.