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Indigenous Politics In Bolivia's Evo Era: Clientelism, Llunkerío, And The Problem of Stigma Author(s): Robert

Indigenous Politics In Bolivia's Evo Era: Clientelism, Llunkerío, And The Problem of Stigma Author(s): Robert Albro

Source: Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic

Development, Vol. 36, No. 3, Power, Indigeneity, Economic Development and Politics in Contemporary Bolivia (FALL, 2007), pp. 281-320 Published by: The Institute, Inc. Stable URL: Accessed: 18-08-2016 15:40 UTC

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Indigenous Politics

In Bolivia's Evo Era:

Clientelism, Llunkerio,

And The Problem of Stigma

Robert Albro

School of International Service

American University

ABSTRACT: This article offers an analysis of the cultural

construction of patronage-clientage relations in Quillacollo,

Bolivia, since the return of democracy and in a political climate of

new social and indigenous movements dedicated to breaking with

the vertical politics of the past, which equated indigenous political

participation with clientage. I consider local accounts of the

practices of notoriously bad clients called Hunk' us, a stigmatizing

insult referring to self-serving, even corrupt, political conduct.

This argument pursues the implications of stigma, as it operates

in Quillacollo' s political theater. I consider how the stigmatization

of dangerous clients is part of a cultural politics that connects

expressions of social hierarchy to assertions of unitary indigenous

identity, which promotes a patrolling of the borders of indigenous

political projects by activists. The exclusivity of cultural belonging

this promotes undermines the kinds of indigenous-popular

coalition building crucial to the success of the political movement

of Bolivia's current indigenous president, Evo Morales.


ISSN 0894-6019, © 2007 The Institute, Inc.

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"The inferior man is a human anima

mentality is possessed of the conden

that constitute the 'soul of the sp

imitation impedes him in adaptin in which he lives. His personalit

contemporary level, as he lives ben

dominant cultures, and in many c

Jose Ingenieros, EL HOM

"In every man there is the possibility

exact, of his becoming once ag


In a recent public forum concerned with Bolivia's surpris-

ing withdrawal from the World Bank-sanctioned international process for the arbitration of investment disputes, Pablo Solón

(a well-known non-indigenous economist, social movement

activist, and current charge d'affaires for trade with Bolivia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs) offered a now standard remark

about the country's president, Evo Morales: "Bolivia," he

prefaced his comments, "is at a key moment. For the first time

in its republican history, we have a president that comes from

the indigenous sector, who is the majority."1 Solon's remark

(framing a discussion of Bolivia's efforts to get out from un-

der the agenda of global financial institutions in terms of the

country's indigenous turn) is a typical formulation expressed

by the current Morales and MAS (Movement Toward Social-

ism) administration. In fact, among both supporters and de- tractors, the Morales presidency has been widely understood as a watershed event and historical crossroads for Bolivia, and

perhaps for Latin America and the Global South. This crossroads is most often represented by the Morales administration's turn away from a strictly neoliberal policy,

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rejection of the "politics as usual

ing, restoration of national sove pressures of economic globalizat the political needs, recognition,

indigenous and popular majori called, has been regularly fete

domestically, for his indigeno

literally epitomize and politicall of Bolivia's long-suffering indig

Albo 2006; Albro 2006a; Caness

the goal of indigenous participat

very nature of political represe it was before, including the wa

perform their duties, and are he

indigenous constituencies.

Since the Revolution of 1952, the

participation of primarily indig

had been as a rural power bas

national leaders (see Dandier 1

2000). They were valuable mostl

facture popular voting blocs. I "runas on trucks,"2 as my cou

them,3 were routinely transport

vote en masse as a way to mai

ernments in power. Indigenous and as valuable clients to nation

portant, their participation was

of a vertical national system o

power brokers or policy archit

occasional beneficiaries of state state largesse.

Local politicos with whom I wo

of the 1990s, and who also ma

indigenous descent, often voiced the vertical politics of the past.

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post-1952 patronage politics with t

identity in a fashion consistent w

autonomy so basic to the efforts o

ments from the 1970s through th

Ticona 2000). The rejection of el

patronage has complemented the linked cornerstones of indigenous

for a long time.4

Breaking with vertical politics is

the Evo era on the national level, a

ity which is now dominated by

the MAS, however, has been achiev

construction of new indigenous-p

as alternatives to the status quo o have argued elsewhere (Albro 2005 tive coalition-building, the MAS h of indigenous inclusiveness, and h ties more central to national gove

coalitions also has had the effect o

of indigenous identity harder to lo

enous activists. This creates a potent

where indigenous identity begin

project of autonomy becomes hard

Here I consider how people discu in Quillacollo. I examine in detail fundamental dimension of politic

provincial capital. I am particularly

attached to regular accusations of

who people understand to be a pr

gerous client. As I develop here, llu

and stigmatized for their transgr

to be indigenous clients who em

sensibilities of non-indigenous pat amounts to the accusation of brea identity as a well-defined categor

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derwriting the goal of political autonom

heart of indigenous activism in Bolivi


As I suggest here, the problem of stigma is largely gener-

ated by the unitary assumption of indigenous identity that

underwrites the accusation of llunk'u, an assumption leaving little room for recognition of the coalitional relationships so important to the MAS' s political project. This analysis, then, pursues how an explicitly cultural politics of indigenous em-

powerment remains in tension (and even at odds) with the

coalition-driven sources of indigenous political power in con- temporary Bolivia. To this end, I examine entrenched symbol talk about gender in Bolivia, as applied to stigmatized popular

masculinity in the mode of llunk'u, as a type of cultural account

of clientelistic political relationships, which I understand to be

a deeply problematic legacy of indigenous politics inherited

by Evo and the MAS.

Of the Patron and Personality

Quillacollo, as a provincial capital, is a town where only a few decades earlier people would have interacted primarily in

the terms of such then prevailing distinctions as between the ur-

ban gente decente (town dwelling mestizos) and rural campesinos

(small scale farmers), expressed through well-defined roles and expectations of patronage and clientage. If moral valuations of

the supposed relationships between these terms continue both

to circulate and inform local discourse, the ongoing dissolu-

tion of traditional boundaries between city and country, indio

and mestizo, the popular or the elite, Spanish and Quechua,

has also dislocated any presumption of a transparent ease of

interpersonal reference in such terms. Nevertheless, verbalized judgments and criticisms of others

often seem to rely on the presumption of a traditional classifica-

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tory hierarchy. This includes a pu

given to the possession and project

"personality" (personalidad), largely

recognizable formación (upbringin

tinct from the corrupt sensibilities o

yet formally comparable appeals to

the cult of well-defined personality

mación in various status-defining

elite social life and composing t

relations, including those of famil

church, and political party, status

ingly displaced as constituting so

the years following the 1952 Revo

Personality is also often used i

continuity of such collective identi

culture, thought to be under severe

stantial in-migration. This "region

with signature features of local qho

larlized as a folkloric object. It is re

conversation, and journalism as a p

is, a kind of birthright of sons from rimony" (patrimonio), as something "

[padres]" (Zelada 2001), is a part of

commensurability of cultural trad an important and essential wellspr

ultimately enshrined in the patria (

mony is also projected as a persona

How do people talk about havin

complaint by a town mayor comm

The problem as well is that [his riva

sort of manipulation. I dare say that

defined personality

His derring do,

him come out with certain views which aren't the fruit of


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This is an indirect way of asser of the subject. And here we find

other local politician reflecting suspiciously associated with polí

This is an example of the fragilit

There is no formación, no trans

are devices to gain notoriety


effectiveness and don't gain cr

affinity, either through tradition, o

their ideology.

As they are excoriated, this fr fined personality serve as an im

The "audacity" of llunk'u artists

from that which typically prov

tradition, family, or political i

what sociologists like to call asc the reasoning, is defined by the

defined identity.

The trilogy of values menti

rehearses those of the erstwhile

pre-1952 elite, where at least h

tions could be publicly indulge

clear that those lacking formació

public self) are also imagined to

to fall victim to moral uncertain

personality are singled out as prac

also victims of manipulation. Ll of positively ascribed status, bu

activities of llunkerio.

The notion oí formación, as synonymous with such terms as

preparación, certainly carries assumptions of status. Difficult to

translate into English, formación might be employed to refer to

a "proper" upbringing as a child in a well-known local fam-

ily counting itself as part of a provincial elite (a meaning that

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would have been much more like

it is also routinely used to refer t

tion, such as a degree (and the rig

the same time, formación is the t

explain their working mastery of time served in a political career wi

tion. It might even be used to d

adeptness for public speaking. In

be a basic reference to one's sense

known detractors (e. g., "Yo tengo m

a claim of dignity (with due respec

a claim of unswerving loyalty to

elite or popular), with personality

lo que soy I"). In my experience the

conjunction with personality as a


Men with personality are able to use their ancestral claim to reject the machinations of clientage. A past regional caci-

que criticized such an attempted subordination, saying: "No

one controls me. I have my convictions, and I will not betray

the soul of my father " (Rivas 2000: 59). A recent town mayor

similarly complained about his detractors: "Sometimes they

disparage me. But I have my roots/7 When asked to consider whether he has changed through life at all, a local politician

readily acknowledged such changes (primarily in terms of

the external trappings of social mobility). Yet he hastened to


But deep inside, that is, in the depth of my personality,

there exists the attitude that I shouldn't separate myself

from what I was before. Because this would be to reject

my origin, to reject my family, and to reject as well what

amounted to my education in the first years of life.

Male dignity, then, is expressed in claims of fateful, usually

genealogical, continuity with one's social origin, as a personal

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patrimony. In Quillacollo's realp prior career meaningfully fram

own, as a potential member of t families" (see Albro 2001a). Depth

with the idea of formación, and

to the "interiority" of the mode

also commensurate with the clai essentialist mode, and the goal o

Even when criticized, the equat

with personality is treated as an as an inevitably established prec

to the social folly of the macho

What a sad and stupid opinion w

It seems that a child can only b

traveling a road of blows and br

forming a strong and powerful


An ambivalent or unknown origin is not part of this con-

struct of the personal present through a decisive past. Any

behind-the-scenes maneuvering might receive a similarly

gendered censure. When former clients secretly tried to defect

and to found a new party nucleus, the then-head of the local

party is reported by his wife to have grabbed a pistol, and

stormed out to confront them with the words, 'Til teach them

to be macho!" As a symbolic currency, then, personality tries

to commonsensically establish the source of its own authority,

as a precedent that is elaborated in the relation of father to son

or patron to client, that is, in the elision of social origin with

the cultural trappings of patronage.

In Quillacollo in this sense the word "respect" marks off

the claims of genuine culture (if imagined to originate from

traditional town-dwelling gente decente) from a variety of cor-

rupt contemporary versions, including perceived newer neolib-

eral cultural sensibilities to pursue self-interested agendas. In

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ways similar to de la Cadena' s ana

"respect" is a critical indicator of

culturally conceived cleavage divid

(2000: 219). In just this way in Qu asserts a publicly legitimate mora

personality, while the llunk'u sugg

behind-the-scenes) and illegitima

corruption. This cultural paternalism, with i

patrimonial continuity, serves as pre

by would-be patrons about untrust

"Fragility of personality," as is oft

of the universe of the infamous c

ban Indian), who more easily emb perceived faithlessness is often in

than masculine. As such, popular m

dismissed as lloqhallas (Quechua: st not be taken seriously, and do not

are supposed to have dishonorab

often through some llunk'u-'ike p

therefore, shiftless clients and disr

"Nowadays sons throw dirt on [sac A subtext of the frequent laments

more apt to disavow adherence t

patronage relations.

Personality seeks the authority o

ers "lack personality," while goo

word" (pedir la palabra) and make s

la palabra) often. Authoritative w

ently representative. The successfu

direct equation of words with the i

of the symbolic capital of personal

speak de frente (man to man), whi

de las cortinas (behind the scenes).

male language use is apparent in

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"No one talks to so-and-so de frente. Th

wear the pants!" Similarly, a friend extolle

ing "simply one time" in public meeti

important to define whatever. If one tal

this is chaku talk [Quechua: a lack of co one believes him. In this way he loses h

Personality, in this case, is a transparen

of meaning with words. If such a close co

and meanings is indicative, then the idio

ogy of patronage celebrates the referential

where the symbol of "personality" is its

lexicon of patronage.

Personality, it must be noted, does no

here to the public signs of the unique in

Greenblatt's (1980) notion of "self -fash

not inform the projection of "personali

term is itself a deeply engendered cultur

public expression of patronal values, of

the region's "paternal absolutism" (Lar

expression of traditional expectations o way the semiotic complement to the un

dictability and the transgression typical

There are, nevertheless, formal affini between the modern subject and a domi

of masculinity in Quillacollo. Personality

unitary gender code marking out what

than what they actually do), and wor

for a publicly valuable gender myth.

demonstrations of agency as a sign of as suggested in a eulogy for Bolivian ex Estenssoro, aptly titled "The Role of Pe The eulogy discusses Bolivia's greatest p

"the silhouette projected from the depths

scene" (Velasco Romero 2001). Such a co would never trade in his own self-respe

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justice, even if he is also "everywh

pckovic 2001). Among other things, act to bring the potential for llunker

it cannot be the other way around.

marks out a male territory for the

and role to the imagined gender or

"self as the ground of human exis As with the modern subject, in Qu

resented by the institution of patr as the source of its own authority.

"Personality" is strategically i cultural essence, and marked by

manhood, expressed as "symbols

(Wagner 1986). These are a contras

popular clients of traditional p

lacking in this very essence, and

unclear, and potentially dangero

As an interpretive practice, person cipher that promotes an illusion of

worldview over time. Such a pract

of the unified subject of modernity

ground of experience and as "th

(Keane, 2002: 75). Such a self-evid

symbolic labeling is, also, as Roy

(1986: x), "apt to constrain the

within the naming of meaning

hierarchy, unitary identity, and cu

expressions of patronage, as part o

projects, promote a disempowe

clientelistic politics. This poses a

the MAS, with its plural popular an

to effectively culturally frame its

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Of the Pinche and the Llunk'u

The Quechua term "llunk'u" regularly finds its way into

the code switching of mostly Spanish-speaking people in and

around Quillacollo to characterize shiftless clients. Lara's re-

gionalist dictionary (1971: 161) primarily defines the llunk'u

as a figurative adjectival expression for adulador (sycophant).

In its verb form, llunk'uy, is used synonymously with rebañar

or with arrebañar, that is, "to glean, to gather, or to scrape to-

gether/7 Lara also notes a synonym for llunk'u, the adjective,

which is llajwaj, meaning lamedor, or licker, one who "laps and

licks/7 Though in its verb form, llajway also means "to lick,77 or

"to taste,77 or "to enjoy a mouthful77 (Lara 1971: 153). And as a

noun, llajwa is of course the ubiquitous spicy sauce of ground

ají, a staple at the table for self-respecting Bolivians.

A comprehensive Quechua dictionary by Angel Herbas

Sandoval (1998) makes the connection between "llunk'u" and

"licking77 more explicit. The adjective is given to mean lisonjero,

or "parasitical, flatterer, and wheedler.77 And a second mean-

ing is also listed as lamedura, or "the act and effect of licking.77

Sandoval lists a further form of the verb, llunk'ukiyay, defined

both as "to flatter,77 "to wheedle,77 but also with the Spanish

halagar, that is, "to cajole,77 or "to coax77 (1998: 242). He also lists a synonym, the verb qhanaymay, defined as "cajoling in

obtaining some end77 (1998: 393). A noun form, qhanayma, is a "demonstration of cariño with gestures.77 This adds a slightly different emphasis. A qhanaymachi is a person "with some in-

terested proposition, [who] offers praise [alabar] to another.77 Of

course, alabados are the sacramental hymns recited by children during All Saint's Day, as they go from family altar to family

altar praising the dead to be rewarded with sweets. In my experience in Quillacollo, llunk'us are always some-

one else, always men (though women also participate in

politics), and already in a clientelistic relationship. The term

llunkerio most typically refers to varieties of dishonorable, usu-

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ally political, shenanigans of some

Quillacollo insisted to me, the many

age the dignity of men/7 In this

euphemisms) is among the key w

nomenclature of masculinity in t

rapidly expanding peripheral bo

A cynical, but also playful, disco

ruption of politicians remains a

in Quillacollo, of those deeply in

disengaged from politics. In thi

editorial in the Bolivian newspa suggested the need for a new ki

"human servitude" called "el llu

Such a fanciful llunk'ometro would measure the enthusiasm

with which Bolivian politicos two-facedly suck up to power- ful patrons. In the quite self-consciously Machiavellian arena

of provincial politics, where as the saying goes, things are

often decided "between roosters at midnight," the llunk'u is

understood to be a notorious figure, j anus-faced, treacherous,

traitorous, and self-serving. The llunk'u is presented as among

the least redeemable of figures in public Bolivian life, a familiar

fate for popular men.

Among men, then, who counts as a llunk'u? First, llunk'us are practitioners of so-called política criolla. This is creole or

mixed politics, referring as well to the racial, cultural, and moral

miscegenation originating with the Conquest, at best a local

brand of realpolitik, and at worst loudly condemned as morally

suspect or corrupt behavior. In the words of one local political

type describing a close associate, a llunk'u "is superlatively

clever [es sumamente viváz]' [He] is always on the lookout for

people of weight [gente de peso], as a sycophant [adulador] who

often acts indirectly [soslaya]." This makes one thing clear: A

llunk'u-like stance describes the attitude of a client, with regard

to a patron. This suggests that such disrespectful and disdained

male identities are also typically already inscribed within a

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social dyad of patrón-pinche (lo

frequent synonym for llunk'u is l

need only think of English equiv

"boot licker" to get the idea. But also makes clear the competitive

and so, the potential instability o

Llunkerio, as a classifiable sort of

situations. A prototypical situatio

Two erstwhile insiders in a local

chuted into another party. Such c

exasperated former fellow milita party leader, to call them "llunk'

double-edged, that is, two-faced

betrayal is the political informer,

whoremonger), or in Quechua, as someone who simultaneously

people, or contrary groups" (Xavi tion). The alcahuete (or any llunk' tive moral conviction for the caus

egoismo or yoismo. Llunk'us employ

political analyst Fernando Mayor

the strategies of recent neopopula

The llunk'u, then, lacks ideologic political winds, which in Bolivian pasa. Anyone who selfishly plays

one face publicly while nursing se llunk'u. If a llunk'u is structurally

client aggressively primed to com

Such self-misrepresentation poin

gist F. G. Bailey (1991) has aptly

deceit" in politics, which can tak outright lie, or a less public dissi

virtue masking self-interest are a

picions of llunkerio. Such is the c local distinction people make bet

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dres" and "compadres de interés'' (

If the former traditionally insti

mutual respect, the latter is done for

in order to "grease the wheel" wit

ties de interés, one is told, are dev

attachment," and such a compadre

tables and "screw you" (joderte). On

(the hyper-individualist cholos the spiritual depth defined through id

strategies of respect and self-interes

when people talk about ritual kins

Another llunkerio is the highly e

lacollo, allegorical equation betwe

adultery, best illustrated with the mantic entanglement). Politics, of

in the terms of the aventura, and

licly called to dance the cueca, a tr

An instance of graft might also be

woman's pollera "to taste the dis

of aventuras often figure literally in

the surefire political tactic of gett

any potential patron) laid. Even if o

quires "sacrificing" (not my word c

or negra (not one's wife), to the cau

But this allegory also points to

ties. It is commonplace that in pub

descent will proclaim the virtues o

and traditionalist chola cochabamb

should never switch from pollera to

even insist on their own "humble

ing, "I am of the pollera/' In fact p

of women de pollera are de rigeur politician in Quillacollo (Albro 2000 men routinely seek private liaison

sified as cambas, or rubias, often in

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brothels, or to round off a vierne

out) (see Paulson, this issue). In p

be disparaged as khuchi warmis (

such relationships with white

consummated, talking about the

is typically folkloric fantasy. As ad

exploited political allegory expr ambivalence, and is a familiar se of llunkerio. Peoples7 political e

as regularly moving within an

indigenous modes of cultural e

prevailing fact of politics in Qu the way indigenous identity has the cultural politics of Bolivia's

The Identity Problem

I recall the response of a man,

who when confronted by a ragg

response: "Ama sua, ama Hulla, a

famous Inca maxim of "never ste

had pointedly added, "never flat cal agrarian union leader told m

the union, including his rivalry was not a "true campesino" (a w

identity in rural Cochabamba)

trying to cash in on his leadersh

"las bases." It was well known th

not earn a living from working in

a chichería (a watering hole, a pr

manipulations). So he was unfit f

leader because he was unrepres

a point the dirigente made by i

the loaded question, "How do y

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then, might also be anyone unlike

to want something for nothing, o

his "daily bread" with his own sw The following is a field note glo

with the man who shot down the

trade. The note begins:

He feels a part of the populacho [p

example, in contrast to a typical pol

described how "when we eat with a c

papa wayku [a type of potato], other

Políticos, in contrast, "live by lies." But

your own works, then "one forgets h


As I was told on many occasions,

or "in our culture people who don no value." The familiar conviction

often voiced in Quillacollo, echoe

Agrarian Reform: "La tierra es par

for those who work it]. If Hunk' u

"in the campo we live from what these cross both class and political

this same manner, the toiling "Boli

trabajador) traditionally has been

political pamphlets circulated by

spirit we have this remarkable pr

published in a book compiled by

El país machista:

Here is an aspect of modern life: th

in the street, in the office, in the highe

in the government, wherever he wan

does he do?

He works!

For who?

For his woman, for his children, for his home!

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And the woman talks still of slavery!


Male value is exhibited through a transparency of the direct

correspondence in kind between physical labor and the fruits of labor (like Marx's "use values'7). This is what Nancy Fraser

(1989: 124) has called the "masculine subtext of the worker

role." But for our purposes, and in marked contrast to llunkerio,

work (as a social practice of transparent correspondences)

further defines a stance of public clarity of male self-defini-

tion, as farmer, as worker, and apparently even as a successful

industrialist. Such clarity of self-definition publicly reinscribes

traditional understandings of the relationship between patron and client respectively, as it insists upon visible evidence for the recognized roles of each.

Linking works to words as proofs of personal transparency

is a primary diacritic for the dismissal of llunkerio. While "see-

ing is believing [las obras entran por los ojos]/' political patrons

"make promises they don't keep [promesan pero no cumplen]."

llunk'u politicians are often condemned for a lack of commit-

ment to their own words, a failure felt to be epitomized by the

figure of the cholo. Consider this note about a peasant leader shaking his head over the characteristic doings of a longtime

cholo rival:

Campesinos speak a "true Quechua/7 Cholos talk more

and say less, so to speak. They are linguistically slippery.

Illustrating this point, he laughingly claims that for every

one word he speaks, [his rival] would speak ten. His rival's

is worse still, averaging fifteen words to every one of his own. "The cholo is a braggart/' he added.


Self-serving rhetoric and words not particularly bound to

their objects, such as tall tales by local authorities about prom-

ised works or goods never to materialize, are considered stock in trade of the llunkerio of cholos. As I was dismissively told,

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'Their attitudes are tremendous! Th

where there are no rivers!" The H

guage as his own end, "simply to sho para pistolear or disparar]/' And this fully speaking de frente (face-to-fac

speaking and politics in his memoi man from Quillacollo approvingly

tés no quita lo valiente" (Rivas 2000:

cannot replace real character. And valientes (men with character), cho

is that if ornamental language mig

is no substitute for the valor or value of self-worth.

These interconnected ideas inform a pervasive attitude

about cholo speech as uttering mostly "pendejadas" (loosely,

"tricky stories" or "silly stories"). One example is a complaint appearing in LOS TIEMPOS, the regional newspaper, about the

indigenous leader, "Mallku" (Aymara: Condor), described by

the author as a "cholo vivo" and as a "cholo pendejo" (that is, a "tricky" or "stupid cholo"). The outraged commentator begins with a criticism of Mallku' s confrontational form of public speaking, which the author dismisses as pendejadas:

The pendejada is a meeting of deceits carried to the

extreme, that is trickery [picardía]. The pendejada is an at-

titude contrary to that of the gentleman [caballero]. And if

honor defines the gentleman, what defines the pendejo?

Dishonor. Dishonor animates the pendejada. And dishonor signifies a broken promise. Not honoring the given word.

And the given word is the essence of the social pact among

free men (Suárez Ávila 2002: 1).

This ringing condemnation asserts the desirability of

transparency between a respected public masculinity (such as "gentlemanliness") and "the given word." Speaking their

pendejadas, these cholos are accused of trickiness, of cooking

up corruption behind the scenes. As a feature of política criolla,

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the picardía of cholos is emphasized her

political types to distance themselves fr

morally suspect underbelly of popular

that is felt to be somehow misrepresent

the source of a disconnect attributed to cholos between words

and their referents. It also suggests the difficulties for men of popular descent of signifying a unitary identity using referen-

tial symbols of the dominant gender ideology of patronage. The linguistic expression of this moral suspicion of cholos

as llunk'us is a denial of their public access to propositional

signs of language. Their words are suspicious because of a felt

lack of correspondence to their apparent objects or referents.6

In this sense, cholos only play language-games, where the

evident linguistic object is hidden, displaced, or nonexistent.

In comparable fashion, in his discussion of "sincerity" as a

fundamental dimension of the language ideology of Protes-

tant conversion, Webb Keane emphasizes how the "modern

subject" seeks out the authority of words as a form of "public

accountability" (2002: 75). This is in conspicuous contrast to

Bolivian cholos, whose tricky use of language makes them

unreliable moderns.

These cases of public dissimulation, such as the uneasy co-

existence of cultural strategies (between the stances of "respect"

and "self-interest") for ritual compadres or the allegorical am-

bivalence of the aventura, could be multiplied here: the scourge

of illegal land speculation, accusations of embezzlement, or

even the double entendre of joking (such as with the rhyming

couplets sung during Todos Santos), and the like. Such cases

make it clear that llunk'us adopt self-conscious and multiple

stances of cultural interpretation: from respectful to disrespect-

ful, from public to intimate, or from straight up to ironic. As critics of llunkerio also make apparent, their transgressions of

the boundaries of any straightforward cultural identity are

viewed with suspicion. Cholos (popular men) are not transpar-

ently self-evident. Their works, their words, and their inten-

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tions fly in the face of the glassy

many respects. From the point of

(as provincial elites), popular me

symbolized, they are immoral.

To explore the meanings of llunk

production of political subjects ac (or from within the patrón-pinch

textualization of patron-client rela

the stigmatized underside of publ

client to the morally upright pa

the patron's point of view, the m

"backstage" (Goffman, 1959: 112) (a

own purview) involving parenthet political networks to manipulate e lunk'us as aggressive, tricky, and

the semantics of llunkerio fill out

the stigmatized cholo. At the sam of clientage behavior (of "licking,

"cajoling," "coaxing," and "prais

sages, where clients move betwe

cultural domains.

Gender, Hierarchy and the Nation

While in Bolivia women are participating in politics in

ever larger numbers, patronage is nonetheless perceived to

be a heavily male-gendered activity in Quillacollo. We cannot

treat vertical relationships of patronage or clientage as simply

politically expedient, however, without also recognizing that they articulate pervasive and symbolic expressions of hierar-

chy, as cultural capital. In Bolivia, patron-client ties are part of

interrelated constructions of race, gender, class, culture, and

especially national identity. Symbolic hierarchy is one basic

part of the cultural articulation of clientage. And as caught up

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in prevailing notions of gender

hard to dislodge. In Bolivia, elit have been historically invested

and indigenous conceptions of

Rivera 1993; Dillon and Abercr

distinctions compose a hierarc

identity, where a male-coded "

with the political class and from by a more locally and culturally from below (e. g., Harris 2000),

male. As de la Cadena (2000) ha

women are routinely taken to b

For Bolivia, Paulson and Calla

with which policymakers have

gender and ethnicity in the b

(2000: 119). The authors point to

insertion of ethnicity into gend

Andes: a preconceived commit tarity" as purportedly basic to

specific symbolic aspects of And

the reversal of polarities for mal

nation building. In contrast to t

they note how constructions of

are often used to stand in as the

the "Andean nation" as culturally

obscure their relationship to oth

discussion, see Paulson 2006).

A good illustration of this i

woman who wears the signatu

now as a positive symbol of re

In the provincial capital of Quil argot includes the town's femal Urkupiña, as a symbol of fecun of "national integration." At th is regularly invoked by politicia

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and writers as a "symbol of the v

culture,6 and as such, widely depic

folkloric dances, and literature (se

same time, indigenous intellectu

of the pollera as a symbol of resis embrace Western culture" (Stephe

the chola is used to patrol the hier

the uniquely Andean.

The chola is promoted in Bolivia

and indigenous intellectuals to a accounts of Bolivian nationhood.

chola as an important new polit

recent support in the widely publ pollera as front line "water warri

pelting riot police with rocks.7 I

the new prominence of female co

pollera- wearing MAS deputies, chola

and cholas appointed to occupy administration. These are each i

used for asserting distinctiveness,

cal inequality. For the Evo era, ho

hierarchy has been foregrounded (

of grassroots social movements) as

indigenous political project. Yet, hi

distinctiveness to indigenous clien of the current political climate, as

Chola of Chavez" (graffiti visible t

Santa Cruz critically referencing

relationship to Venezuela's Hugo

The chola' s male counterpart, the

public profile. The creole nation ta

male patria, while the multicultur

tive symbol of the female chola. Her

is publicly depicted in uniformly n

onymous with popular masculinity

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adequately indigenous nor acc

stigmatized figure that also thre

indigenous symbolic constructio

Most important for present conc

most artful and regular practitio

Unlike the often strategically

the cholo is an ill-defined villai

Ingenieros's El hombre mediocre

article, the "mediocrity" of the c

lack of positive identification as

cholo is a near universal slur use

mendacious, and boundary-tran

indigenous descent. Such a pub

masculinity, it turns out, is w

gender in Latin America, where

Most famously, this gallery has

(Hobsbawm 1959), "rogues" (D

(Paredes 1958), machos (Guttma

1961), drug dealers (Bourgois 1

and in the Andes, cholos: neithe

bumpkins, urban migrants, unt terested, and probably corrupt.

Recent research on gender in t

reinforcing sociopolitical, intell of the symbolic construction of

symbolic constructions by linkin

duction of social inequality and

Gill 1994; Seligmann 2004; Step

Weismantel 2001). An importa

the critical reappraisal of an ear

scholarship on gender, which, in t

139), asserted the fact of a "pecu

tem." As such, the cultural const

to distinguish Andean from non However, this newer generation

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placed the symbolic construction o

der system in its own context of p

used in diverse efforts of Andean liberal use of indigenous cultural c descriptive of the present MAS ad

But if symbolic representatio

routinely deconstructed by schola popular men have rarely been give

ticularly in the context of successiv

of national identity, cholos are at

female counterparts, while also ref

of patrón and patria, if in stigmatize

words, the stigma attached to cho tion: neither adequately indigenou

consistently, cholo-like sensibilities

arrangements criticized in the ter

The problem of the llunk'u points

assumptions that inform the unita

of elite but also of traditional indi

Bolivia. These assumptions, with

cultural identity, do not describe t

MAS particularly well.

For popular men, stigma is reinfor

uncritical history of the construct

or types, like the cholo in Bolivia.

the Andes, I argue, this typecast

and parcel of the pervasive symbo this section. The pairing of "gende forces" (Silverblatt 1987: 29), or th

Andean cultural differences, has

scholarship, policymaking and poli

takes for granted the unitary sym

In the public life of the nation, gend

and unitary cultural categories. H

190) has convincingly shown for t

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masculinity is distortedly repres

male traits/7 In Bolivia, there is

talk about such people and the t

which they are a part without s

from elite and indigenous persp Current scholarship and policy well served to recall available cr

These point out how the assum

inherent in symbols can give th

for-gr anted quality" (Kertzer 19

they acquire an "ineffable, if n

1366) character, largely cut off

and contexts of production. Ev

utilize this sort of generic symbol

of indigenous identity as a defi ernment (Albro 2006a; Postero 2

symbol talk among elites, policy

and intellectuals, easily become

ized (Paulson and Calla, 2000: 1

limiting code that poorly descri tions and misconstrues the iden

build them.

In the Era of Evo

The status quo of clientelistic politics in Bolivia had been

undergoing a slow but steady transformation, since the "return of democracy" in 1982, and as novel political figures of popular

descent surged to the forefront of national politics. New po-

litical options like CONDEPA (Conscience of the Fatherland) and the UCS (Civic Solidarity Union) helped speed along the

erosion of traditional political party affiliation (see Archondo

1991; Mayorga 2002). But the shape of the national political

arena has changed even more dramatically since 2000 with the

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combustive appearance of issue-

social movement coalitions, which successful direct action protests ov

cision-making regarding such pub

and gas (inter alia, Albro 2005a; Da

Gustafson 2002; Gutiérrez et al. 2

Postero 2005), which culminated w of Evo Morales in the 2005 presid

In this new context of the elevati

to power in Bolivia, social moveme

their break with the pervasive p

discourse that embraces a less vertical and more horizontal

politics of participation. This is described as a collective "social

space of encounter among equals" (Garcia Linera 2004: 72), a

form of participation understood to have taken its cue from a

more indigenous-derived face-to-face politics of assembly (see Albro 2006b; Lazar 2006). The organization of the MAS (where

national representatives refer to themselves as "spokespeople," emphasize responsiveness to the grassroots, and avoid the mer-

est suggestion of membership in Bolivia's traditional political

class) is a principal illustration of these redrawn political rela-

tionships and boundaries (Albro 2005b). But, we can ask, how

easy is it for a head of state to break with vertical politics?

As suggested by the significant number of indigenous

representatives in Evo7 s cabinet and in the national legislature,

empowerment as Evo' s MAS party has pursued it, means at

once reversing the historical role of the indigenous masses as docile clients of the state while at the same time embracing

political representation through state office, but not in the tra-

ditional mode of the patron. With regard to the administration's

efforts to nationalize Bolivia's hydrocarbons industry, as Evo,

as Solón, and other MAS representatives have repeatedly in-

toned: "We want partners not bosses." In its repudiation of a

subservient clientelism, this statement represents a rejection

of the status quo of indigenous clientage as it is built into the

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international economic system

political establishment.

While the first year and a half

not been marred by the large

his immediate predecessors, we

what challenges a MAS-style p

to confront over the long term popularity represents new (even

indigenous political agenda for t

the first national indigenous lead

litical post in the Bolivian govern

Victor Hugo Cárdenas served

first Sánchez de Lozada admini

member of a surprising partn

MNR and the indianist MRTK

participate formally in the gove cally costly for Cárdenas.

If at the time celebrated by the

the media, Cárdenas was also of

political rivals. Once a star, he is

present currents of indigenous

having exhibited a "servile and f

1995: 195) while part of the gove

edly accused of being a llunk'u

the problem, "When we were ll got virtually nothing!" At least attention to the expectation of suspicion, a lack of trust, and s

movements. Cárdenas was eval displayed an unacceptably clie

perceived to have been co-opt

government and its neoliberal p

of having abandoned indigenous

Cardenas' s downfall demonstrate

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of indigenous and social moveme


In fact, Cárdenas was a politica

problem at the heart of indigenous

and in Latin America, which prom

the Evo era as well: How to balan

political autonomy with the decisio

apparatus? Past (and some presen

ects in Bolivia were blunt in rejectin

than an illegitimate post-colonial

indigenous peoples, who were prio state, as independent nations at le to the state itself (see Albo 2002;

If indigenous currents in Bolivia ar

the past both to engage with the s

MAS to use the state as an instrum

the cultural politics that have in

projects in Bolivia for decades con

tial, and receive substantial interna

politics of Cardenas' critics assume

and a definition of indigenous belo

cultural distinctiveness, the bounda

highlighted, patrolled and defended

short, they are potentially signific

coalition-building and engagement More broadly, patronage and clie

many indigenous activists, since th

ing relationships among people dif

cated in the political arena. But in th upon breaking with the vertical polit

organized social movements, reject

indigenous empowerment, and wit

ist identity politics of self-determi

like the president himself face a dau

political language to describe their

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location. Otherwise, Evo runs the risk o casualty, caught betwixt and between t

control of the state and indigenous self-

tonomy. On the one hand, posters thro a hopeful message of the state's patrona

Evo delivers/7 On the other, and in

in small towns throughout the countr

crowds, "I am like you." But can he be bo

and indigenous spokesperson?

Llunk'u-like patronage-clientage relatio tant political fact distributed across the

indigenous-popular coaltions so importa

MAS-like coalitional political movemen

redraw the political landscape in Bolivia,

to come to terms with the implications o

ma represented by the widespread critic

llunkerio: its rejection of patronage, asse

reinscription of exclusionary cultural po

strictly control and insist upon sharp d

should be considered "indigenous," an

stances. That is, llunk'us are stigmatized confound any clear distinction between

indigenous cultural locations. In the m

the oft-noted corrupt behavior of the llun

corruption of indigenous identity. But

hasten to emphasize, productively crucia

MAS. If the Morales presidency is going

the indigenous cultural politics that c

many of its practices and goals will hav

The Prison-House of Culture?

"Personality" is currency in the cultural borderland of Quil-

lacollo as a cultural device insistent upon essentially define

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masculine traits of respect, work, u

formally of a piece with the pract beling that underwrites unitary cu

elite and indigenous. And from th the llunk'u is a tangle of contradic

and a corrupt bastard of uncertain described as aggressively playing a reciprocating or working for his d

as flattery or persuasion, to achie are described as untrustworthy, a their objects. In these ways he is

himself, and of disregarding the vir

depth of formación. He is descri

person shot through with a dang

The llunk'u is above all "vivo" (clev

untrustworthy client.

These negative associations hav

anything else in the political act

than potential corruption. This is patron's modernist view. In a fam (Mexico's patron of letters) had so

the pachuco, the similarly transgr

migration to the U. S. Paz saw the

two cultures, two nations, and r

North American options. Paz's por

"His whole being is sheer negative dictions, an enigma. Even his very

a word of uncertain derivation,

everything" (1961: 14). Paz's narra

erasure of cultural identity works

zation of highly socially mobile Hu

to describe the supposedly morall which they operate.

Paz' s bird's eye view is an acco

defined by their lack of a unified se

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Quillacollo, within the dyadic aren llunkerio is a cultural idiom and p

"third republic/' a complexly ur

Barragán 1992). Political analysts h

such political experience in Latin

as ephemeral populist class coal

particularly true in nations like B

of urban elites and rural Indian

These extremes take conceptual

academic and policy debates. Such

locate the patrón-pinche dyad of llu

ily within the assumed historical

between, on the one hand, the e

its political penetration from abo

relations) and more localized A


But this makes several basic errors. First, the tacit commit-

ment to separate domains of "top down" and "bottom up"

cultural commitments overrepresents the extremes of social

life at the expense of the third republic or of the typically urban

middle, where indigenous-popular coalitions, and "category-

transgressing peoples" (Abercrombie 1996: 62) are the rule.

Second, this is done in the familiar terms of contrasting elite

to Indian, modern to Andean, and national to local, in ways

allowing that these two might yet be at least conceptually two

autonomous cultural provinces of meaning and experience,

which makes little sense. Third, due consideration is rarely

given to stigmatization; itself a gesture in negative relief of the tensions between claims of unitary cultural subjects and political experience that is otherwise.

The Bolivia of Evo Morales is a country passing through

a transformation that promises to create many more political

opportunities for its popular and indigenous majority. At the

same time, the language of the political project of Evo and the

MAS derives its relevance from social and indigenous move-

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ment activism, which legitimates maintenance of strong working re constituencies. The success of the

in part to indigenous support. It is

urban and informal economy, to a

middle-class rejection of the neoli

that made their lives more difficult. If the MAS has success-

fully expanded participation in an indigenous political project,

it remains to be seen if Evo and the MAS can maintain broad

support among largely urban and indigenous-descended social sectors that have worked closely with indigenous representa-

tives in the successful popular protest coalitions that made

possible Evo7 s unprecedented rise to the presidency. In Quillacollo and elsewhere these close everyday working relationships are informed by expectations of patronage and

clientage. And yet, in an era of indigenous political empower-

ment, these relationships are also suspect and framed, llunk'u-

like, in ways that promote exclusive and collective cultural

commitments (consistent with historical projects of indigenous

autonomy) which can easily undermine the viability of indig-

enous-popular coalition-building in the future. Analysts of

Bolivia's changing indigeneity have sought to clarify how best

to talk about indigenous engagement with new urbanities (see Guss 2006), with a new kind of state and "post-multicultural

citizenship" (see Postero 2007b), and with disparate cultural

frameworks constructing a new "indigenous cosmopolitanism" (see Goodale 2006). But we also need to pay attention to ways

that intimate cooperative engagement with non-indigenous

political experience has moved more to the center of indig-

enous projects in Bolivia as, itself, a part of what it means to

be indigenous (in political terms) in the first place.

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The field research for this article was primarily conducted in

of archival and participant-observation fieldwork between 19 with return visits in 2001 and 2003. This research was funde

versity of Chicago's Latin American Studies Center, the Tinke

the Fulbright and the National Science Foundations, as well

research grant from Wheaton College (MA). An earlier ve

argument was presented at the inaugural meeting of the Bo

Association (March 16, 2002). I thank Josefa Salmón for her o

efforts and Susan Paulson, Andrew Canessa, Guillermo Delga

Albo, Marcia Stephenson, and Pamela Calla for their useful c

earlier drafts and in different conversations. Any confusions tions or inaccuracies are my own.


1 Quote from Pablo Solón as part of a discussion on foreign i

ment in Bolivia, sponsored by the Center for Economic and

Research. Washington, D.C. May 31, 2007.

2 The term runa literally means "people," "person" or "human

in Quechua. Among mostly Spanish-speaking politicians, the

historically has been used generically to refer to both Quechu

Aymar a indigenous clients.

3 I conducted participant-observation in Quillacollo, Bolivia,

1993 to 1995, examining populist grassroots political respons

structural adjustment measures in that country, and have ret

several times since, in 2001 and 2003.

4 The scholarship of patronage relationships has also tended t

them as collisions and negotiations between the distinct "inte

or "social positions" of patrons and clients, respectively, ea which are understood to represent membership in distinct

competing social statuses or groups (cf. Cohen and Coma

1976), such as indigenous and elite.

5 Qhochala is the word used to refer to people from the re

Cochabamba. 6 This distinction about cholo discourse recalls similar distinctions

such as Wittgenstein's (1981) discussion of the differences between

Augustine's classic propositional theory of language acquisition and his own notion of "language-games."

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7 " Water warriors" is a reference to pa

2000 in Cochabamba, an ultimately su

reverse the attempted privatization of


8 Such cultural politics, for example, have been written into the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, under consider-

ation for ratification in the United Nations since 1993, and which

Morales and the MAS have publicly affirmed.


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