Jan 5, 2009

Creating Strategy: The Afro-Bolivian King (November-December 2007)
(versión en español sometido antes abajo)

From August to November 2007, the Constitutional Assembly went into a rapid tailspin with a brutal escalation of violence. This forced the government to take action and move the Assembly to a military facility on November 24th, where they began a forced approval process, which resulted in an even more antagonizing divide between Bolivians. In attempts to stop this process, people began attacking the police and the Assembly with a mix of dynamite, Molotov cocktails, burning tires, and small firearms.

During this period many were afraid that the new constitution would never be completed, therefore the Afro-Bolivian movement began to think about alternative strategies in order to gain more public attention for their cause. They decided to introduce a unique part of their own history to the world- Julio Pinedo, the Afro-Bolivian King.

Julio’s ancestors are an important legacy in Afro-Bolivian history and culture. As a direct blood descendant of an African prince, Julio is currently the symbolic king of the Afro-Bolivian people. Slavery was so merciless that his own ancestor, Bonifaz, who was the prince of a tribe in the region that is now known as the Congo, was brought by the slave trade to work in the Bolivian mines. However, Bonifaz managed to survive the extreme working conditions in Potosí (see previous blog titled “Discovering History en Potosí”) and was later traded to a plantation in Los Yungas, where he was eventually recognized by some of the other Africans as their king. They successfully protected his identity and that of his lineage from the slave owners until they held their first official crowning of Julio’s grandfather, Bonifacio, in 1932. Julio was eventually crowned by ritual in 1992 in Los Yungas.

Julio did not think much about being crowned king, as it did not affect his life in any way - until now. In December 2007, the Afro-Bolivan Movement contacted Julio with the idea to organize his public crowning at the national level as the symbolic Afro-Bolivian King by the La Paz Governor, because it would be extremely helpful in publicizing the Afro-Bolivian struggle.

However, as the ceremony ends, it is obvious that Julio is unprepared for such a leadership role. The Movement is conscious of the fact that they must work to help him become more aware of the issues in order for this political strategy to work.

Meanwhile, the Constitutional Assembly moved to the town of Oruro to finish the controversial approval process. On December 15th, 2007, they delivered the new constitution to President Evo Morales and declared plans to organize a referendum vote for the public approval of the document.

At this point, the Afro-Bolivians are rejoicing, because they are one step closer to official recognition. However, would this constitution that is being created under so much controversy ever make it to the voting ballot in 2008


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