Moments before his death at the hands of Spanish colonial officials on November 15, 1781, Aymaran leader Túpac Katari assured his apostles as well as his adversaries that he would “return as millions.” As promised, Katari’s presence in Bolivia did not end with his life. In the centuries since his historic siege of La Paz, Katari has returned often, and remains a cornerstone of the five-hundred-year-long rebellion to reclaim and restore an Indigenous world that long predated the formation of Bolivia. Such a rebellion is the topic of Benjamin Dangl
’s latest book, The Five Hundred Year Rebellion: Indigenous Movements and the Decolonization of History in Bolivia
(AK Press, 2019), a deep dive into the historical roots and contemporary relevancy of Indigenous-led movements in modern Bolivia.
Drawing on fifteen years of journalistic experience in Bolivia, Dangl demonstrates the ways that Aymara, Quechua, and Guaraní intellectuals, activists, and communities use history as a means of resistance. Dangl shows how the Indigenous campesino union, the Andean Oral History Workshop, caciques apoderados, and other Indigenous activists seized historical knowledge and symbolism as their own, reminding the world of their role as agents of historical change. Over the last several decades, such efforts have led to monumental shifts in Bolivian politics that have permanently transformed the past, present, and future of the country.
Benjamin Dangl teaches journalism at the University of Vermont where he is Lecturer of Public Communication in the Department of Community Development and Applied Economics. As a specialist of Bolivian politics, Dangl provides New Books listeners with insightful commentary on the historical context and immediate impact of the recent coup that removed Indigenous president Evo Morales from power.
Annabel LaBrecque is a PhD student in the Department of History at UC Berkeley. You can find her on Twitter @labrcq.