This article focuses on the connection between Aymara indigenous communities, Liberal intellectuals, and the nation-building process in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Bolivia. The Liberal intellectuals’ designs of nation in early twentieth-century Bolivia were shaped in part by the actions and political initiatives of the very “Indians” the intellectuals sought to categorize, define, and contain. Somewhat paradoxically, the national intellectuals and the local Aymara elite unwittingly collaborated in the construction of a preferred Indian identity, the Inca, to create a noble and progressive past for the nation and to marginalize the undesirable, non-elite Aymara indigenous population in the wake of the 1899 Civil War between Liberals and Conservatives. The process of narrating the native past was of importance to national intellectuals as well as to native peoples. Several types of sources inform these late nineteenth and early twentieth-century discourses of nation building, including judicial court cases, archival documentation, and theatrical performance. The narrative of the indigenous past and the role of the actual Indian population within the Bolivian nation in the early twentieth century was a site of negotiation located at the center of national politics, establishing the foundation for a nation that would maintain differentiated constructions of Indian identity at its core.

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