INTRODUCTION
a
‘‘[We demand] that government authorities
comply with the law, faithfully and legally, with-
out special treatment for anyone, and within the
boundaries of equality.’’ Thus declared Guillermo Cruz,
the respected leader of a Quechua-speaking Indian com-
munity of Cantón Vacas (Cochabamba) in a 1927 petition
to Bolivia’s minister of war.∞ For generations, Cruz’s family
had cultivated land in this remote area of small lakes and
arid plains about fifty miles southeast of Cochabamba
city; the territory posed little interest to outsiders. Cruz’s
situation changed in the early 1910s, when a long-awaited
railroad line neared completion. Hopeful about markets
the railroad would open up, hacendados (estate owners)
began to encroach on the community’s land. In 1917 one
such hacendado evicted Guillermo Cruz from his home
and had the defiant comunario (Indian community mem-
ber) imprisoned for nine months. Fearful of reprisals,
Cruz avoided Vacas after his release. He made his way to
the national capital, La Paz, in Bolivia’s Aymara heart-
land—probably after traveling on foot for more than a
week. In La Paz, Cruz took up work as a poorly paid porter,
melded into the emerging neighborhoods of rural mi-
grants, and became connected with an extraordinary net-
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