David Choquehuanca is Bolivia’s Foreign Minister. He is also an Aymara Indian, like Bolivia’s President, Evo Morales.
In yesterday’s paper, The Wall Street Journal examined the movements underfoot in Bolivia today.
Many Aymara intellectuals say they want to re-create in the 21st century the values of the communal Eden they believe existed before the conquest, a place without poverty or oppression.
I think the word “intellectuals” is wrong in this context. These people have a knowledge not learned in books.
Mr. Choquehuanca says he doesn’t turn to Western books for advice–indeed, he boasts of not having read a book of any kind in years because he doesn’t want to cloud his mind with European concepts. “We have been in the hands of people who have read books, and look what a mess the Earth is in,” he says. Far better to tap into the knowledge of Aymara elders. “When I say we have to read the wrinkles in our grandfathers’ brows, it’s to recover the wisdom that our grandfather’s still have,” he says.
Speaking to Indian Country Today last January, Choquehuanca further elaborates Bolivia’s indigenous ethic.
For 500 years we had ceased existing; we no longer were. We want to exist, to be, again. For 500 years we have lived in darkness, we have put up with exclusion, we have put up with humiliation, our natural resources have been plundered and we have just stood there watching. So after these 500 years, we said enough: We are human beings, we have rights, we have our territory, we have a culture, we have begun once again to value ourselves.
This is inspiring stuff for humanists to contemplate. Europeans have long thought they won in the Americas. But Europeans have not the patience of Indian people. Indians are still fighting, not with weapons, with better ideas and more generous spirits.