Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Some aspects of change in post - revolutionary Bolivia: a geographical study of Aymara communities beside Lake Titicaca

Benton, Jane M

Some aspects of change in post - revolutionary Bolivia: a geographical study of Aymara communities beside Lake Titicaca Thumbnail


Jane M Benton


The principal aim of this thesis is to identify and analyse the major social and economic changes overtaking rural Bolivia since the Republic's 1952 National Revolution, ,'the most profound movement of social change in America since the beginning of the Mexican Revolution of 1910' (Alexander, 1958). Bolivia's Lake Titicaca region, where field work for the present purposes was conducted in 1971, lies within easy reach of La Paz and in close proximity both to the Peruvian border and to government-sponsored land colonization projects: during the last two decades its densely-peopled Aymara Communities, in former times subject to the rank injustices of the hacienda system and virtually isolated from the mainstream of national life, have been exposed to the full impact of unprecedented forces and obliged to come to terms with an unfamiliar outside world.
Chapters V and VI describe at length the more significant of the multifarious post-revolutionary changes disrupting traditional patterns of life in two lakeside communities, Chua Visalaya and Llamacachi. Such modifications can be summarised as follows: the abolition of 'feudal' obligations; the replacement (in one community) of subsistence farming by a thriving cash-crop economy; improvements in housing conditions and general living standards; access to formal education; the emergence of I'the politically aware' campesino (countryman); greatly increased mobility; a dramatic expansion of marketing activities and the creation of an intricate, ever-widening network of rural-urban ties. The subsequent chapter focuses the reader's attention on the diverse factors stimulating socio-economic change within the Lake Titicaca area: it is maintained that contrasted historical backgrounds account in large measure for marked discrepancies in rates of adjustment and economic development.
The vital necessity of approaching the change process from the aspect of the participants themselves is emphasised throughout the dissertation. Hence Chapter VIII is concerned exclusively with the lakesiders' own attitudes towards change and innovation, with their self expressed problems, wants and aspirations. It is clearly demonstrated that campesino viewpoints frequently conflict with those of outsiders, be they government officials, representatives of overseas aid organisations or research workers. In the Lake Titicaca region countless community development projects have been doomed to miserable failure from the outset because would-be community developers have neglected to consult local opinion and consequently been unable to 'bridge the cultural gap' between themselves and their 'intended recipients': likewise the Bolivian Government does not appear to have appreciated the true sentiments of lakeside communities, particularly with respect to colonization and cooperativism. Simultaneously, a total lack of community cohesion and a reluctance on the part of campesinos to contribute either financially or manually towards community development undertakings has acted as a veritable stumbling block to progress.
After examining reasons for recent set-backs and failures and reviewing various seemingly insuperable obstacles in the path of rural development, Chapter IX specifies Ayrnara 'qualities of character on which to build a better future', and proposes la strategy of change': community development projects calculated to satisfy 'the felt needs' of the two communities studied in detail are recommended. In the concluding chapter the wider implications of the findings are considered: it is argued that an 'ideological reorientation' and direct intervention by the central government are urgently required to forestall excessive rural-urban migration and enable Bolivia's agricultural sector to sustain national industrial growth.

Publication Date Jan 1, 1974


Downloadable Citations