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In the aftermath of the revolution of 1952 and the agrarian reform of 1953, the historically marginalized rural majorities in the highlands and valleys found an ally in the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (mnr) government and received the promise of “modernization” if they would exchange their ancestral “indigenous” identity for the class status of “peasants.” Yet despite the overhaul of the land-tenure regime, by the 1960s, the illusions of progress began to dissipate. Above all on the Aymara altiplano, different organizations began to pursue a more autonomous course, and they adopted the name of kataristas, in honor of the anticolonial hero Tupaj Katari, who laid siege to the city of La Paz in 1781. In the city and the countryside, through a wide range of grassroots media and political channels, they began to elaborate what Silvia Rivera called a long-term historical memory and a critique of the ongoing forms of “internal colonialism” in the country. In 1970, on the anniversary of Katari’s execution, they inaugurated a monument to the Aymara revolutionary in the town of Ayo Ayo, where he had lived. With their meteoric rise, the kataristas took over the leadership of the peasant union federation in August 1971. Two weeks later, however, General Hugo Banzer Suárez’s military coup, backed by Víctor Paz Estenssoro of the mnr and Mario Gutiérrez of the Bolivian Socialist Phalange (fsb), forced their representatives to go into hiding. On 30 July 1973, despite the repressive conditions but in the hopes of an electoral opening, five of the new peasant organizations signed the Manifesto of Tiwanaku in which they broadcast their aspirations for radical social change. While they still used the class language of the “peasantry,” the entire tone of the document is anticolonial, and the project looked to affrm ethnic identities so that indigenous peoples could cease being “second-class citizens” and “foreigners in their own land.”

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