The struggle against colonial and patriarchal structures continues in Bolivia - a country that is strongly marked by its colonial history. Government initiatives lead to a slow change in society, but they are not enough. With the help of a theater project based on Andean cosmovision, norms among young adults are being questioned with the hope of a faster social change in the country.
On November 20, 2020, Bolivia's current government created a new one Ministry for culture, decolonization and patriarchalization. The ministry will work to promote cultural diversity and combat racism and inequality. Despite this and other government initiatives, the colonial and patriarchal structures of Bolivian society continue to influence the living conditions of the country. In 2021, more than 100 were reported murder of women of men, and the country has had only one indigenous president, despite the fact that almost half of the population identifies as indigenous.
Initiatives to combat power structures
Ramiro Mendoza Quisbert is 26 years old, a trained political scientist, communicator and actor. He is the founder of the project "Teatro para el buen vivir"- one of several initiatives working on structures left behind by colonialism and patriarchy in Bolivia. Through workshops, the project has worked with young adults in the cities of La Paz and Tarija. It is not a theater group, but an educational project that wants to decolonize the body and question societal norms through theater and Andean cosmopathy. Andean cosmology is a type of worldview originating with the indigenous peoples of the spirits. The theater project was founded three years ago and has since had about ten workshops with about a hundred participants.
- Decolonization of the body is not only an inner work for everyone but is also a collective process in society and with mother earth. Those who participate in the project share a desire for a different way of living and relating to the earth, each other and themselves, says Ramiro Mendoza Quisbert.
Decolonization and identity creation
According to Ramiro Mendoza Quisbert, decolonization is often misunderstood as a desire to cling to the past, a search for a "pure" indigenous identity and as revenge against history. This is a misunderstanding.
"Ultimately, decolonization and patriarchalization are part of a larger global project that seeks a transformation so that we can live together in well-being, balance and harmony with other beings, nature and the earth," he says.
The theater project is also important for identity creation and for healing the colonial wounds. Like many others, Ramiro Mendoza Quisbert grew up in an urban environment and describes himself as betrayed by Eurocentrism and the American dream.
- I represent a generation that has been cut off from its origins and roots. A generation that seeks identity and seeks to orient itself between the colonial, the patriarchal, the capitalist, the Andean and the collective.
Many of the participants in the project have grown up in cities where consumption and destruction of mother earth are strongly rooted. The workshop will be a place where they can find themselves and each other.
Government initiatives not sufficient
Ramiro Mendoza Quisbert believes that the Bolivian state's initiative to change power structures is good and necessary. Seminars, debates and talks are important and the result of changes in the constitution after many years of struggle by indigenous peoples, peasants and workers. However, some things can be improved and much of the change is only institutional. He also thinks that the generational aspect of the government's work needs to be improved.
- I would like to see more young people had the chance to express themselves around these themes. It is important to create forums for conversations in schools, universities and workplaces as many of these conversations stay within the government and do not reach out to society.
Ramiro Mendoza Quisbert believes that even though political discourse and the names of institutions have changed, there are people who work within them who continue to maintain power structures based on colonialism and patriarchy. There is a need for a total restructuring of the state from a decolonization perspective, and that does not just mean a new constitution.
- It is something very utopian, but for me it is the only way to create something of significance, because otherwise we can continue to change the names and titles, but in the end we have still not changed anything for real.