McDonald’s vs Quinua: Meta-commodities and strategic alliances

Anthropological Allsorts

Bolivia has become a popular place to mention while critiquing the West/United States.  Don’t like U.S. politics? Consider Bolivian popular protests. Don’t like exploitative capitalism? Bolivia is rejecting neoliberalism. Don’t like U.S. fast food?  Food writer Steve Holt, after watching Fernando Martinez’s 2011 documentary “¿Por qué se quebró McDonalds?“, asks us to consider Bolivia.  After all, they don’t have McDonald’s.

Let me be clear: I haven’t eaten regularly at McDonald’s since my short stint working in one as a teen (and even then, I often packed a lunch). I also don’t eat at Burger King, Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr., In and Out, or other burger fast food establishments unless it’s one of the rare occasions when  a) I’m on a road trip with people who really, really want to eat at such a place,  or b) I’m trapped in an airport and need to eat quickly.  Once…

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Seeking people in their “natural environments”

Obviously I’m on a roll criticizing the press this month (expect an update on the CNN controversy soon).  Take this photo contest at Today Travel (part of MSNBC).  They requested photos from readers (presumably from the U.S.) taken abroad (presumably while they were tourists).  Then they titled it “Going Native” — even though the American photographers appear in none of the photos, and these are certainly not photos showing the integration of the photographers into local culture.

“Going Native” was a phrase which — long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away — representing something anthropologists (along with missionaries, colonial officers, and other migratory Europeans in positions of relative power) were supposed to avoid.  Getting too close to your informants — those people one interviews, lives with, and tries to understand — was said to interfere with the scientific objectivity required to draw kinship diagrams.  “Going native” meant one liked the food in the field so well that one neglected to apply for a tenure-track position in Springfield.  Or something.

“Going native” is no longer a serious concern of anthropologists (if, in fact, it ever really was).  Most anthropologists have a very different idea about objectivity — if they think that a useful analytic concept at all (personally, I don’t).  In a context where one can cook recipes learned in the field at home and become Facebook friends with informants, the field is always with you.  And so is home. While I am in the field here in Spain, for example, I can follow the news in the U.S., from major events to department issues.  The lines between home and field are still there, but technology can make them more porous.

I don’t think any of this was really on the minds of the folks at Today Travel, though.  In regards to this set of photos for “Going Native,” the editors gush:

You captured fascinating people around the world and showcased them in their natural environment. Such beautiful portraits!

This sounds like butterfly collecting. I spend a lot of time in Introduction to Anthropology arguing that humans don’t have natural environments, at least not in the western sense of nature vs. culture.  All people are just as cultural as all other people, because that is what it means to be human.  There are no environments that are more natural for (certain) people to be in, as implied here.

But let’s look at what some of these photos actually capture. The current front-runner in the online voting, and the lowest ranked, have a great deal in common when one looks closer.  (And yes, you can still vote if you wish if you want to mess with that ranking.)

Let’s start with this striking photo of an Ecuadorian ambulante in Quito.  An ambulante is a person who sells goods while walking around.  Based on my knowledge of La Paz markets (I have never been to Quito), these individuals are usually among the poorest of market vendors. They generally lack a permanent place (stall, kiosk, or an established part of a sidewalk) to sell, their inventory is usually limited, and the goods they sell are inexpensive and require little capital investment.  In this photo, the woman holds bags of oranges for sale.  She looks straight at the camera slightly suspiciously; she appears caught off guard. The camera is clearly inside a vehicle (note the out-of-focus dashboard on the lower left).  This photo is in last place in the online competition.

The front-runner is this dynamic photo of a Maasai dance performed by people in “traditional” clothes in a “natural” (i.e., no visible human-made structures) environment.  I suspect this is a photo of a performance for tourists, of the kind discussed by Edward Bruner in a chapter of his book Culture on Tour. As he discusses, what the tourists see (a Maasai dance) is a separate question from what the performers experience (in terms of pay equity, management, intended audience, message, etc).  Looking at this photo, we don’t know what these dancers were paid, what their expectations for the future are, or whether they would encourage their children to pursue employment dancing for tourists. We have no idea what the photographer is doing either — standing? sitting? sipping a gin and tonic?

Despite the very different popular evaluations of these two photos, both imply relationships of structural inequality.  One photographer has the resources to sit in the car while the photographed woman sells oranges.  The other photographer watchers the dancers who perform and are photographed for money.  Obviously these inequalities here are not natural; they are the products of human interactions and histories.

The photo that is “successful” in terms of popular internet acclaim is the one that best hides that actual human interactions taking place and creates an illusion of a “natural environment.”  The Ecuadorian ambulante is clearly engaging with the photographer, making her annoyance clear; his position as merely driving by is evident.  The winning photograph, in contrast, removes all evidence of the photographer (or any audience at all), presenting these dancers as acting in a social void.  They are in a line, facing in the same direction, but not looking directly at the camera — and dance for no obvious reason at all. There is nothing “natural” about this. What’s interesting is that it could be interpreted to appear that way.

Quinoa in the news as “good to think.”

There has been a spate of articles over the past year telling American and European consumers that their love of the Andean grain quinoa is detrimental to those who grow it in Bolivia and Peru.  The general narrative is that rising quinoa prices in the United States and Europe mean that Bolivians can no longer afford to eat quinoa themselves.  This idea has been floated by the New York Times, The Independent, NPR in two articles, The Economist, CBC News, and the Guardian, among others.

There have already been numerous well-researched responses to this narrative.  Mimi Bekhechi comes to the defense of vegans, who are called out by the Guardian, by pointing out that beef production in industrialized countries is far from ecologically or socially sound.  Documentary filmmakers Stefan Jeremiah and Michael Wilcox take issue with NPR on the basis of their work with Bolivian quinoa farmers, who are, unsurprisingly, still eating quinoa.   Emma Banks at the Andean Information Network offers much-needed in-depth historical perspective on the issue of agricultural policy and its relationship to food consumption.  To quote her at length:

In past decades, quinoa’s popularity declined among the upper middle classes in favor of wheat and rice that they perceive as more “sophisticated” and “upwardly mobile.” Ironically, the valorization of quinoa in North American and European markets has caused many up-scale Bolivian restaurants to begin serving quinoa and the middle and upper class to consume more of the grain.

Banks correctly points out that it is misleading to imply that the decline in Bolivian quinoa consumption began with the rise of a quinoa market in the United States and Europe.  The situation is far more complicated.  

First, quinoa consumption in Bolivia is not — and never has been — uniform.  There are large differences in cuisine based on ecological zones, class, and level of urbanity.  Where quinoa is produced, is it certainly consumed.  In urban areas, quinoa is consumed in smaller quantities and in specific culinary contexts.  In La Paz, for example, quinoa consumption has been declining for decades  among the non-indigenous middle class as a result of national agricultural policies, U.S. foreign food aid, the association of quinoa with poor indigenous peoples, and other factors.  In short, talking about “Bolivian consumption” of quinoa is inherently problematic because the nation is not the scale to productively consider this question.

In the altiplano village where I did fieldwork, quinoa was produced and consumed in small quantities.  Although valued, quinoa and closely related cañahua were grown as secondary crops.  In this region, these crops are subject to hail damage, which makes it impossible to rely on them exclusively.  They also require large amounts of labor to thresh and clean before cooking.  Local restaurants, while they would purchase many ingredients locally, tended to purchase pre-cleaned, ready to cook quinoa from city markets.  Local producers grew quinoa for private use, but restaurant owners preferred to purchase the grain (at higher costs) rather than spend the needed time to clean it.  

The local staple in this area, as in many parts of the altiplano, is potatoes.  Potatoes are a native crop, domesticated in the Andes, and found in some form in almost every meal.  While quinoa is valued and appreciated, it does not make up the majority of the diet.  Nevertheless, it was valued and eaten.

But let’s consider for a moment why this narrative of quinoa is the one that has been picked up by U.S. and European news media.  Why is it such a “story” to say that foreign love for quinoa is detrimental to the Bolivians who grow it, despite the fact that the Bolivian government and producer associations are actively trying to promote quinoa exports?

It seems to me that this media attention is actually maintaining the image of quinoa that makes it “good to think” for western consumers.

For my non-anthropologically-trained readers, a quick explanation.  “Good to think” is a reference to the work of  structuralist anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, who coined this phrase.  He argued that while foods are “good to eat,” they also carry symbolic value. Food is never just food; we never eat just to gain calories.  That’s why in the U.S. moms making pancakes in the morning emotes maternal care, why roast turkeys are served for holidays, and why we tell our kids they can’t have dessert before they eat their vegetables.  These are not universals; they are cultural norms about what foods mean.  When those norms are broken, interesting things happen precisely because food is symbolically important.  And you can try this at home: serve your kids roast turkey and cranberry sauce for breakfast on a school day and see how they respond.  (There are more examples of anthropologists breaking such culinary norms in this book I co-edited.)

Now, back to quinoa and why it is “good to think.”

It is the fact that quinoa is less consumed in Bolivia, ironically, that propels its image abroad.  We all eat potatoes; many of my undergraduate students don’t even know these are native to the Andes.  But there is little attention paid to this fact when potatoes are sold in our supermarkets.  Quinoa, in contrast, because its consumption is largely limited even in Bolivia to the rural indigenous communities that produce it, fulfills the role of the “lost crop of the Inca,” and is regularly referred to as “ancient.” 

Let’s think about that for a moment, the connection between quinoa and the past that pervades its marketing in the west.  Most news articles label quinoa as the “lost crop of the Incas.”  This may seem normal to my U.S. readers, but consider for a moment if your bread was labeled as being made with the “lost crop of the Levant” or “ancient wheat.”  Wheat is an ancient crop, in the sense that it was domesticated thousands of years ago.  There are in fact groups interested in growing and cooking with lesser-grown varieties of wheat, but this is not a widespread marketing technique for wheat in general.  If you type “ancient wheat” or “ancient bread” into Google, you’ll be sent to websites with agricultural news, specialty diets, and recipes.  Type in “ancient quinoa” and you will be sent to buy quinoa, largely because of the “Ancient Harvest” label used by the U.S.-based Quinoa Coporation.

Quinoa is not ancient because it was domesticated further in the past than other crops.  It is “ancient” because its western consumers associate it with traditional indigenous populations untouched by modern industrialization — people they think about as being in the past.  (It should go without saying that this is a western fantasy.)  

That is the association quinoa has in Bolivia as well, where the highest levels of quinoa consumption are seen in rural areas and among indigenous urban people.  Since the 1950s, deliberate policies that promoted the consumption of wheat, bread, pasta, and rice have reduced the consumption of native potatoes, quinoa, tarwi, and other crops.  Those foods, however, also became marked by class and ethnicity, such that quinoa came to be seen as indigenous rural food.  That class/ethnic association has been exported to the U.S. and Europe with the grain.

 The process of foreign interest spurring high-end Bolivian restaurants to serve quinoa is similar to what occurred with the consumption of llama meat (which I wrote about here and here).  In La Paz in the early 1990s llama meat was available only in indigenous urban markets, but now is offered in touristic establishments (but still not in most restaurants that cater to the Bolivian middle-class).  The reason quinoa has been picked up by high-end establishments — while chuño (freeze-dried potatoes), generally, has not — is not just about taste but about the narrative the grain has of isolated survival, pure indigenousness, and rarity.  Quinoa is “good to think.”

I agree that quinoa should be available for all Bolivians to consume, and that higher prices may make that difficult for some.  It is something to be concerned about.  But these higher prices are spurred on by specific kinds of foreign interest, grounded in the idea that quinoa is ancient, lost, indigenous, and underappreciated.  The idea promoted by the media, that foreign interest in quinoa could destroy its very authenticity, confirms the reasons the grain was “good to think” for westerners in the first place.  This media narrative suggests that quinoa cannot be in both temporalities at once — if too many American vegans are eating it, it will cease to be the “lost crop of the Incas.”  It suggest that quinoa cannot continue to be truly “indigenous” if it is successfully produced for a commercial export market.  

We absolutely need to be considered about ethical access to food, promoting fair labor practices, regulating capitalist systems that undercut food security, and promoting good nutrition.  But to suggest that the solution in this case is either for foreigners to stop eating quinoa, or to grow it in western countries (which would undercut Bolivian farmers by destroying their export markets), is both simplistic and unethical.  Quinoa can be “good to think,” “good to eat,” and also profitable for those who export it.

Llama meat in La Paz’s tourist district, June 2010

This is, in part, a shameless plug for Helen Haines and my upcoming edited volume Adventures in Eating: Anthropological Experiences in Dining from Around the World. In it, anthropoloigists discuss frankly what it’s like to be offered unfamiliar foods and how we can turn that discomfort into methodologically useful data.  The book is aimed at interested foodies, undergraduate anthropology students, and those interested in field methods and the anthropology of food.

My own chapter in this volume focuses on chuño, a popular Andean preparation of potatoes that involves freeze-drying them.  As a foil to this example, I chose my old favorite, llama meat (the subject of my B.A. thesis and an article).  The over-arching question is: Why is llama meat offered at tourist restaurants, while the far more commonly consumed chuño generally is not?

Asado de llama with French fries, top and center. Yum!!

Llamas are native to the pre-Columbian Andes, were bred largely for their meat (they were one of the few domesticated meat sources in the pre-Columbian Andes, along with guinea pig — the subject of another chapter in the Adventures volume), and continue to be raised and consumed.  And yes, both llama and guinea pig are delicious.

Fillet of Llama is the first item on this menu board.

I continue to be fascinated by the fact that llama meat is so prominent in La Paz’s touristic areas, where restaurants offer it (often in English) to foreign diners, while llama is conspicuously absent in restaurants in most of the rest of the city (with a few exceptions).

Even touristic food marked as "ethnic" (here: Thai) may include the Andean llama.

To learn more, you will of course have to read the book (or wait, in vain, for the movie to come out).

Bicentennial Symbols

The other predominant big event(s) (aside from swine flu) in La Paz right now center on bicentennial festivities.

This summer/winter is the bicentennial of cry for independence. La Paz is festooned with banners commemorating this anniversary and there are on-going cultural events to celebrate. There have been extensive building and clean up projects in the name of the bicentennial – including the installation of more playgrounds, public toilets, and other public services.

Yesterday the Prado was closed to traffic most of the day, as it is most Sundays. As we strolled up and down, we passed several performance stages. One was for guitar/traditional music, one was for young children performing in folkloric dances (the banner behind this one claimed that this was to preserve and valorize “authentic” culture), and one was for the Miss Cholita 2009/Bicentennial pageant .

Why is this notable? Well, we shouldn’t forget that independence was not fought in the name or interest of indigenous peoples (and indeed post-independence indigenous peoples often lost community rights and standing in the eyes of the state). That a prominent symbol of 200 years of independence (sort of) is someone who needs a certain command of local history, indigenous language, and dress is an important reminder of how things have changed.

However, this is also indicative of the Andean-centrism of the current constructions of “authentic” Bolivian identity (all the young folkloric dancers were performing morenadas, caporales, etc., in other words, dances viewed by many as representative of the Andes). To be fair, we *are* in La Paz, so that some relation between local (as in Altiplano/Dpto. of La Paz) expressions and current social symbology is to be expected. But for a Sunday festival proclaiming the liberation of *Bolivia* (not just La Paz) I was struck by this omission (I did not notice even a superficial reference to other regions).

Finally, in a discomfiting twist (to me), while the performances were occurring in the middle of the Prado right across from the Monje Campero was a gigantic Venezuelan flag + “information tent.” The flag itself dwarfed the Bolivian flags there – it was probably 20 feet long by 10 or more feet high. The tent was the largest of all of the activity tents and information booths on the Prado and occupied prime real estate in the center of all the activity. There were representatives of Venezuela handing out small Bolivian and Venezuelan flags, as well as pamphlets and information about Venezuelan aid programs and policies. The tent was packed with people every time we strolled by. It struck me as a rather transparent symbol of the current relationship between Venezuela and Bolivia and perhaps a (yet more asymmetrical) future relationship.

Power’s “Whispering in the Giant’s Ear,” reviewed

Whispering in the Giant’s Ear: A Frontline Chronicle from Bolivia’s War on Globalization by William Powers.  New York and London: Bloomsbury. 2006.  305 pp.

This book, written by a U.S. international aid worker, is a well-written, honest, warts-and-all look at Koel Kempff and other Bolivian national parks in a context of growing indigenous political power and the increasing interest of international corporations in “carbon sinks” in the Amazon.  The book’s timeframe covers Bolivia at the end of the Goni Presidency through the end of the Mesa Presidency, foreshadowing the rise of Evo Morales to power.  Powers is sympathetic to the political struggles of indigenous groups at that time, yet pragmatic about his role at the Fundacion Amigos de la Naturaleza (FAN).

Powers is not an anthropologist (although he is reading anthropologists and Bolivianists, including excellent works by Arturo Escobar, Kevin Healy, Leslie Gill, and Herbert Klein, — as well as, unfortunately, pseudo-folklorist Joseph Campbell).  Yet, he discusses many of the topics and themes that affect ethnographic fieldwork.

I was particularly touched by his on-going struggles to figure out how to be comfortable within widely divergent social circles: Bolivian NGO workers, Amazonian indigenous peoples, multi-millionaire ex-patriots, British Petroleum representatives.  I think most anthropologists would understand his anxiety as he decides where to take Salvador, an indigenous Amazonian Chiquitano leader who works with his NGO, for dinner in Santa Cruz.  People like Powers are not outside the local class structure, but they cross-cut it in ways that many Bolivians don’t or can’t.  Anthropologists are similar; they often move from poor rural houses with no water to city penthouses, from street fiestas to lavish embassy parties, from ex-patriot BBQs to university libraries.  Sometimes these gringos take Bolivians with them, and I can give a few examples from my own experience: I brought Tiwanakena assistants to work in a government archive in La Paz, welcomed rural visitors into my middle-class Sopacachi apartment, took rural Aymara to city hospitals and poor urban Aymara to movie theaters.  In Bolivia’s highly-stratified society, such movements were not unheard of (and certainly do not require gringos), but they could be uncomfortable.  I feel Powers captures this dynamic very well — the sense that not all public spaces are equally open to all members of society, and the tensions that emerge when people cross those invisible lines.

Powers also captures what I like to call “surreal Bolivia” — those moments where, at least as a gringo, something so… odd happens that it seems funny, deeply profound, and enlightening all at once.  Power’s account is littered with these moments: the local official who corners him to ask how he can be more like Bill Clinton (p. 198-199), scaring parrots (p. 169), U.S. embassy staff who can’t understand the connection between the War on Drugs and how Bolivians feel about the U.S. (p. 210), Power’s culture shock of returning to the U.S. to hyper-processed foods and hyper-materialism (p. 212-216).

There are also a few moments that might make an anthropologist cringe slightly.  Powers is very concerned with the category of indigenous people, not just as a legal or political category, but as a “real” group. When Salvador’s ethnicity is questioned in order to discredit his group’s claim to Amazonian land (p. 156), Powers seems genuinely disturbed.  Rather than see this as a legal ploy to justify the claims of loggers, he instead starts to pursue a “lost” group of indigenous people who are even more “indigenous” than the Chiquitano — the Guarasug’we. Later he gives us this strange analogy:

There’s a single tree, a hundred-year-old flowering tajibo, in the very center of BP’s Bolivia in Miniature…. As I touch its rough bark, I know that it is no longer the Guarasug’we tree tha holds up the world. It doesn’t emerge out of their animate earth or send its flowers into seven skies.  It grows out of and flourishes into globalization.  In a sense, the ground below out feet and the air we breathe have become global capitalism.  We live within Jamison’s “postmodern hyperspace,” where the great expansion of capitalism in our era internalizes the exterior world, just as the Epcot Center seeks to internalize its exterior, aspiring to be a total space, a complete world. Globalization absorbs traditional culture and wild nature and spews forth a heteronomy of fragments such as carbon ranches, green companies, and capitalist Indians.

But within this all-encompassing hyperspace there are struggles.  And looking at the tajibo tree in front of me, I get an idea.  Perhaps Salvador is a strangler fig, and the modernizing sultan Apollonius [another indigenous leader] a liana.  Both of these plants complete for the tajibo tree before me.  But whereas strangler figs, like all hemiepiphytes, begin within the tree canopy and work their way down to the soil, the thick, woody liana is a vine that starts in the soil and climbs up.  Both plants use the tree for structure, and both kill it, but in very different ways.  A group of lianas can eventually bring the tree crashing down under their weight; strangler figs take the suffocating tree into themselves, and, remarkably, the new organizsm retains the shape and verticality of the tree.

Bolivia’s protesting masses are not noble savages battling an evil corporate globalization.  Everything is tainted.  Salvador and hundreds of thousands of others come together as a strangler fig from within the branches of the ancient tree of indigenous culture and wild nature, shoot their roots down into the group of globalization, and use it to entomb the tree.  The new is shaped around the old, but it an entirely different species.  The strangler races against time with the lianas: the forces of monoculture and extinction that simultaneoulsly inch up the tree and threaten its collapse (pp. 230-231).

Powers recognizes that all humans have both individual goals and big dreams, and that the two come into conflict. Yet, he seems genuinely surprised that Salvador or other indigenous people might try to personally benefit from their political connections (including to him and FAN).  Underlying Power’s narrative is the sense that there really is something real and solid about indigeneity that is untouched or untouchable by the forces of capitalism.  But as Alcida Rita Ramos has warned (Indigenism: Ethnic Politics in Brazil, 1998), this “Hyperreal Indian” is always a political tool.  It is never an ethnographic description but instead used strategically to empower or disenfranchise groups labeled as “indigenous.”  Saying that “real” indigenous people should be isolated from capitalism provides a way to discredit claims made on ethnic grounds, because no group is totally isolated from capitalism today.

Yet, Powers recognizes that indigenous people are forced to speak a language the state can understand — one that mixes claims to unchanging ethnicity with real political action.  He quotes Salvador as saying “Blocking roads is the only language some people understand” (p. 250).  In the end, this book is worth reading not because Powers has a coherent theoretical stance, but rather because he allows the situation to be contradictory.  He is not afraid to show the complexities of life in Bolivia, even when they don’t fit into the narrative that he, himself, wants to write.  And in the end, it is that data which makes this book — or any other ethnography – useful.

Victor Hugo Cardenas and the “indigenous movement”

El Duderino has posted an interesting defense of Victor Hugo Cardenas’ expulsion from the province of Omasuyus.  While I don’t agree with his conclusions, he does present both historical and legal background of the situation to put it in context.  He believes that President Morales is not, and should not, be the central focus here — rather, community leaders who made the decision to oust Cardenas are fully responsible for their own actions. At the same time, he seems to think this event should not be a major concern:

Does the attack, as suggested at Gringo Tambo, evoke a “worrisome trend” in Bolivian politics of violent intimidation of political opponents, making the analogy of Morales to Mugabe less hyperbolic? No. If other incidents like this were to occur, yes. Of course we know that the opposite is not true, MAS politicians have routinely been the subject of physical assault. That said, the government’s rejection of the attack is important to setting a necessary precedent, before a trend emerges. If Morales wanted to exploit the vicitimization of indigenous peoples in Bolivia to suppress political opponents, frankly, far worse would have already been visited upon Cardanes, Costas, Marinkovic, and the rest.

I disagree (Note: I didn’t write the post that he cites here, Kate did).  I think most of us at the GT agree that the comparison to Mugabe was polemical.  We are aware that indigenous communities do not follow the US Bill of Rights nor modernist capitalist ideals of private property, and that ownership in indigenous rural communities must have community consent in order to be recognized.

Nevertheless, democracy needs to accomodate space for political dissent, and this event brings that into question.  Democracy is not just a product but a process.  That process depends on allowing for multiple viewpoints, even when they are unpopular.

And while el Duderino decries the violence again Cardenas and his family, he is also quite clear about this:

Cardenas is a political traitor to the indigenous movement. … Bolivia’s indigenous communities have no reason to tolerate Cardenas‘ pretensions to speak on their behalf and they should not. He ought to be marginalized as a fraud and scam.

I’m not going to argue VHC’s case here, that’s not my purpose.  Instead, I want to argue that there is no single, unified indigenous movement in Bolivia, and never has been.  A brief look at history makes this clear.  Evo Morales has broad-based support from indigenous and non-indigenous people.  Felipe Quispe (another Aymara leader) and Evo Morales, while making strategic alliances, have never really had the same goals.  The Katarista movement had split into multiple factions long before VHC became Goni’s VP. And going back into Bolivia’s history, one can point to multiple incidences where indigenous groups have taken opposite political sides at particular political junctures.

Who is indigenous in Bolivia is a continuum, not a clear-cut category.  Unlike the US (where being Native America is a legal status, problematic in its own way, but clear in the eyes of the state), being indigenous in Bolivia is something that individuals can step out of (by moving, adopting different clothes and new professions — there are numerous ethnographic descriptions of this process) or into (in the case of many urban Aymara who have recently reclaimed indigenous cultural roots).  To imply that there is a single indigenous group, let alone movement, is to ignore the multiple identities, politics, divisions, and sheer diversity of Bolivians.

It is exactly this kind of reductionist argument, that divides Bolivians into neat categories of indigenous/non-indigenous, that we are trying to get away from here at the GT (despite our internal disagreements).  To assume that all indigenous people should agree with each other simply because they are indigenous — and that those who hold minority opinions are “traitors” — is to fail to recognize the Aymara as a diverse group with multiple histories, perspectives, politics, and beliefs.