The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Alberto Ruiz Lavadenz, Sinclair Thomson, 2018. "Leaving for the Front", The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics, Sinclair Thomson, Rossana Barragán, Xavier Albó, Seemin Qayum, Mark Goodale
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The traditional musical form known as the huayñu is a part of everyday life in the Andes. It is commonly heard over the radio and performed on frequent festive occasions. The kacharpaya is a dance performed especially at the end of a festival, and lyrics about parting and absence are its familiar subjects. This kacharpaya, written as a huayñu by the composer Alberto Ruiz Lavadenz (1898–1949), is well known in Bolivia, although few are aware that it refers to the Chaco War. Like many other huayñus, it combines Spanish with a native language, indicating a sense of shared cultural identity across other ethnic and class boundaries. The Aymara verse in this song also produces a keen emotional effect. In the final two lines, being chulla suggests a loneliness, the incomplete state when one thing—like a shoe or a sock—lacks its matching pair. The lyrics convey poignancy, as the soldier says goodbye to his lover and heads off to a distant war from which he may never return. The tone of bewilderment and loss of agency here—“Where are you leading me?”—might also be interpreted as a subtle critique of the rulers responsible for the forced recruitment and transfer of Indian and peasant troops.