The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
The following testimony and song express a nostalgic leave-taking. Yolanda Santiesteban, a resident of the historic mining center of Llallagua, evoked the feelings of those mineworkers who experienced the closure of the state mines and the massive layoffs and forced “relocation” of the labor force in the wake of neoliberal restructuring in 1985.
The cueca is a popular dance in Bolivia, and Santiesteban’s verses, presented below, say farewell to many of the distinctive features of Llallagua. They take leave of the town’s religious festival, held in August for the Virgin of Asunta. They take leave of the two famous radio stations that residents listened to in moments of crisis and celebration: the Voice of the Miner, established in 1947; and the Pius XII station, founded by the Canadian Oblate religious order in 1959 in an attempt to distance mineworkers from leftist politics and from the vices of alcoholism, though it was transformed into a channel of communication by militant workers themselves. The song bids farewell to the Salvadora tin mine, which permitted Simón Patiño to mount his economic empire and which was nationalized in the revolution of 1952. At a time when the power of labor was eroding, the song says goodbye to the site where miners achieved a host of social benefits for the working class and stood their ground for democracy. It says goodbye to a memorable phase of Bolivian history.