The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Integration of the Lowlands
Geographic Society of Santa Cruz, Alison Spedding, 2018. "Integration of the Lowlands", The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics, Sinclair Thomson, Rossana Barragán, Xavier Albó, Seemin Qayum, Mark Goodale
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The Memorandum of 1904, presented here, argued the case for the regional interests of the eastern lowlands. It was written by members of the intellectual and political elite of Santa Cruz who belonged to the Geographic Society, and was directed to the Bolivian National Congress during the period in which the financing and construction of railroads was being debated.1 In 1904, Bolivia and Chile signed the Treaty for Peace and Friendship, which obliged Chile to build the railroad between Arica and La Paz.2 The year before, the Treaty of Petropolis resolved the territorial dispute between Bolivia and Brazil—the former would cede the rubber-rich Acre region and the latter agreed to build the Madeira-Mamoré Railway. The document highlighted the perspectives of the representatives from eastern and northeastern Bolivia, which it claimed had been “drowned out” by the representatives of the western regions, who held the parliamentary majority. It underscored the reasons why a railway link with the Pacific would be problematic—it would lead to Bolivian dependence on Peru and Chile and to the ruin of Santa Cruz, because the region would remain isolated and face heightened economic competition. The alternative proposal was a connection with the Atlantic, through the River Plate and Amazon River basins, which would unite the eastern and western parts of the country. This foundational text later resurfaced as a reference for lowland groups seeking regional autonomy, especially the Camba Nation movement from Santa Cruz in 2001 (see part 11).