The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Eusebio Tapia Aruni, Alison Spedding, 2018. "An Aymara in the Ranks", The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics, Sinclair Thomson, Rossana Barragán, Xavier Albó, Seemin Qayum, Mark Goodale
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Eusebio Tapia Aruni was one of three cousins from the same Aymara peasant community near Viacha who joined the guerrilla organization in Ñancahuazú in January 1967. A migrant worker in La Paz, he had become enthusiastic about the Communist Party in 1963: “I wanted the revolution to triumph so that the equality of rights and opportunities would arrive for all. I wanted to have what others had.” In 1966, he accepted, without really knowing what it would involve, “a very diffcult and delicate task, with the risk of losing one’s life.” Less prepared than other combatants and dedicated mainly to support tasks, he and three other Bolivians became a part of a group that Che Guevara, whose nom de guerre was Ramón, pejoratively referred to as the “dregs” (la resaca). After 17 April, they were assigned to the rearguard under the command of “Joaquín,” along with the sick and two physicians who could not keep up the same pace as the vanguard and the center units. The rearguard lost contact with the rest, and on 31 August 1967 perished in the ambush at Vado de Yeso. Eusebio and Chingolo—who, at sixteen years old, was the youngest guerrilla fighter and also part of the “dregs”—were saved because earlier, on 22 July, in the midst of a firefight with the army, they were separated from the others. They were then taken captive and interrogated under torture. Thanks above all to Chingolo, who was better informed, the military used them to uncover various caches and documents of the guerrilla at their base in Ñancahuazú.
It was only after his time with the guerrillas that Eusebio learned the true identity of “Ramón,” the commander of the insurgency. His story, first published in 1997, shows us a less-known facet of this movement: the activities of the support group, with a different status from that of the combatants and with a different Andean cultural background, which led to frequent misunderstandings with the leadership.