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Something old, something new…

23 January 2010

Bulibya Mamallaqta… also known as Wuliwya Suyu… also known as Tetã Volívia… also known as el Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia used to have two capitals (La Paz and Sucre), but under its new constitution has only one… but as a consolation prize, it has two flags and four official names. And, in inaugurating the first President of the Plurinational State — and president of plain old Bolivia for the second time,  two inaugural ceremonies: at Tiawanaku, President Evo Morales took the baton of office as leader of the people, and then went to LaPaz for the more Euro-style swearing an oath to uphold the new Constitution.

With attempts over the last several years to undo the 1917 Mexican constitution, which was the first to formally recognize the people’s ownership of natural resources, the new Bolivian constitution (which came into force yesterday) gives new meaning to the concept.  It also builds on another Mexican constitutional innovation, the  1994 indigenous rights clause, giving formal recognition to the rights of indigenous communities.

While indigenous communal rights were recognized by treaty and under the Spanish colonial Ley de las indies (although, as under the Republic, often ignored in practice),  indigenous peoples were in practice second class citizens, despite Mexico’s radical innovation at independence in recognizing all people — specifically including indigenous people — as citizens (The United States didn’t recognize “Indians” as citizens completely until 1924, Canada and Costa Rica until the 1970s), indigenous communities — with different legal and cultural concepts than the larger community — did not have any specific legal recognition.

I don’t think the 1994 “San Andreas Accords” clause, which recognized the rights of communities, was well thought out (it creates a conflict between individual guarantees and in some ways abrogating the individual rights of members of indigenous communities), but was the start of a new legal theory, which the Bolivians (or Bulibyans or Wuliwyans or Volívians) is putting into practice in a — one hopes — improved and better form.

It’s a start, and anyway, as El Duderino (Abiding in Bolivia) writes:

It is the beauty of a plurinational state, you get to have more of everything. Multiple languages, two flags, and two inauguration parties!

The second flag, by the way,  is an improvement on an existing form… searching for a symbol of the seven nations that we collectively call the Incas, the “Cusco” flag (used by the Peruvian department of Cusco) created a rather tame, and predictable design — which was either cooped, or independently developed to represent another multi-cultural — and overlooked — minority group (and created some amusement for foreign visitors who’d see it flying over Cusco’s cathedral).  Gonna be hard to miss a Bolivian Embassy now.

(L-R) Cusco, gay rights and Bolivia's "Aymara" flag

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 23 January 2010 1:19 pm

    Nice post. The prior 20th century Bolivian constitutions (1938 and 1967) were in part modeled after the Mexican 1917 constitution. Maybe the next Mexican constitution will be modeled after Bolivia? Reciprocity baby.

    Also Bolivia will keep two capitals (just not officially) with La Paz remaining the seat of the executive and legislature.

  2. 30 January 2010 7:05 pm

    OMG!what a mistake… Cusco is in Peru not Ecuador.
    You should research more about the betrayal that make the mexican government when they modify the San Andres accords.

    • 31 January 2010 8:23 am

      OMG… I can’t believe I wrote Ecuadorian for Peruvian either! Or that I never noticed the mistake until you caught it, Amazilla. Much thanks.

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