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The Indigenous Neighborhoods of La Paz: Urbanization, Migrations, and Political Activism in La Paz, 1920–1947

Luis M. Sierra


In Bolivian historiography, the Chaco War is associated with the dramatic transformation of political structures and culture of the nation. Scholars often describe it as the awakening of the political elite and emphasize the primacy of socioeconomic class and the importance of nationalism in creating cohesive political projects in the country. This essay examines political activism and popular participation in indigenous neighborhoods before and after the Chaco War in the city of La Paz. I analyze how the activism of indigenous neighborhood residents challenged the negative connotations associated with such labels as “indígena” and “rural” and how labels such as “worker” and “neighbor” came to represent indigenous neighborhood residents. Migrants demanded that the city government provide services in their neighborhoods such as public transportation and water and sewer lines. The primary vehicle indigenous workers used was the neighborhood association, a political pressure group that presented petitions to the city government, organized neighborhood cleanups, and engaged with various institutions on behalf of neighborhood residents in order to improve their quality of life.

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Published by the University of Florida Press on behalf of the Association of Global South Studies.