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In the midst of the Federal War of 1899, Indians in the town of Mohoza, in the valleys near the borders of La Paz, Oruro, and Cochabamba, unexpectedly attacked the Pando Squadron of the Liberal forces, with which they were ostensibly allied. In the town, an estimated 120 soldiers and townspeople perished in gruesome fashion at the hands of Indian insurgents. The Liberal leader José Manuel Pando restored communication with his erstwhile Conservative enemy, Severo Fernández Alonso, in order to suppress the perceived threat of what he termed a “race war.” The trial of those Indians accused of masterminding the “hecatomb of Mohoza” riveted public attention in 1901 in the aftermath of the war. Bautista Saavedra, the lawyer for the defense, who would become president of Bolivia two decades later, offered an explanation for the violence of the Aymara population, which he considered normally abject, based on the latest positivist ethnological, criminological, and social-Darwinist thinking. The defense mixed scholarly erudition with the racial hysteria of public discourse at the turn of the century.

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