Beyond the Old Order of Things
In Rhythms of the Pachakuti we can sense the reverberations of an extraordi‑
nary historical process that took place in Bolivia at the start of the twenty‑first
century. The book is the product of Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar’s political en‑
gagement in that historical process and the fruit of her research and deep re‑
flection about what took place and what meaning it holds for radical politics.
It brings together, in rare fashion, firsthand personal experience, an honest
chronicling of events, acute and provocative analysis, and passionate com‑
mitment to the project of collective emancipation.
Rhythms of the Pachakuti is an ambitious book that not only contributes
to the multidisciplinary scholarship on Bolivian politics and the broader lit‑
erature on social movements but also moves boldly into the terrain of criti‑
cal theory, challenging capitalist social relations and state‑centered political
projects of whatever stripe. It questions the aspirations to power of the tra‑
ditional Left and, by implication, the centralizing and vertical tendencies of
the Movement toward Socialism (mAS) government that emerged out of the
state crisis and popular struggle between 2000 and 2005. Drawing lessons
from the insurgencies in Bolivia in that period, Gutiérrez Aguilar stakes out
an alternative “popular‑communitarian” position as a polestar for future lib‑
eration struggles.
Though of Mexican nationality, Gutiérrez Aguilar was intimately involved
in Bolivian politics for many years and acquired a quasi‑legendary status
there as an intense, brilliant activist and radical intellectual. Her own politi‑
cal formation on the Mexican Left had been linked to the Central American
liberation struggles of the 1970s and 1980s. In 1981 she joined the forces of El
Salvador’s Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (fmln) operating in
Mexico. At the time, Gutiérrez Aguilar was a student of mathematics at the
National Autonomous University of Mexico (unAm). In this context she met
Álvaro García Linera, a Bolivian mathematics student also immersed in the
hothouse culture of Mexico’s revolutionary Left. Along with García Linera’s
brother Raúl, they conceived of taking the struggle to Bolivia but adapting it
to the distinctive conditions of internal colonial and capitalist exploitation in
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