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Fausto Reinaga (1906–94) was Bolivia’s first prominent intellectual to adopt an overtly “Indian” political identity. His forceful writings, from the 1960s and 1970s in particular, continue to shape the thinking and rhetoric of today’s generation of radical indigenous students, social leaders, and politicians. In 1962, Reinaga founded the Partido de Indios Aymaras y Keswas, later the Partido Indio de Bolivia, based on a sociopolitical philosophy known as indianismo. Reinaga combined an anticolonial perspective inspired by writers such as Frantz Fanon with an original and critical view of Bolivia’s past and present. His brief for indianismo was marked by fierce and visionary language. He argued throughout his life that indigenous beliefs and practices were superior to those of the decadent West and that a violent revolution was needed to sweep clear the vestiges of colonialism that oppressed Bolivia and kept its indigenous populations in shackles.

In his most famous work, La revolución india (1969), Reinaga used a critique of the statues and street names in La Paz to reveal how Spanish and European colonialism had distorted the identity of the nation. Such alienation justified his full-throated affrmation of Indianness and his radical call for Indian liberation.

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