Katarism (Spanish: Katarismo) is a political tendency in Bolivia, named after the 18th-century indigenous leader Túpac Katari. The katarista movement began in the early 1970s, recovering a political identity of the Aymara people. The movement was centered on two key understandings, that the colonial legacy continued in the Latin American republics after independence and that the indigenous population constituted the demographic (and thus essentially, the political) majority in Bolivia. Katarismo stresses that the indigenous peoples of Bolivia suffer both from class oppression (in the Marxist, economic sense) and ethnic oppression.
The agrarian reform of 1953 had enabled a group of Aymara youth to begin university studies in La Paz in the 1960s. In the city, this group faced prejudices, and katarista thoughts began to emerge among the students. The movement was inspired by the rhetoric of the national revolution as well as by Fausto Reinaga, writer and founder of the Indian Party of Bolivia. The group formed the Julian Apansa University Movement (MUJA), which organized around cultural demands, including bilingual education. Its most prominent leader was Jenaro Flores Santos (who in 1965 returned to the countryside to lead peasants). Another prominent figure was Raimundo Tambo.
At the 1971 Sixth National Peasant Congress, the congress of the National Peasants Confederation, the kataristas emerged as a major faction against the pro-government forces. The 1973 Tolata massacre (in which at least 13 Quechua peasants were killed) radicalized the katarista movement. Following the massacre, the kataristas issued the 1973 Tiwanaku Manifesto, which viewed Quechua people as economically exploited and culturally and politically oppressed. In this vision, peasant class consciousness and Aymara and Quechua ethnic consciousness were complementary because capitalism and colonialism were the root of exploitation.
Katarismo made its political breakthrough in the late 1970s through the leading role kataristas played in CSUTCB. The kataristas pushed the CSUTCB to become more indigenized. Eventually, the kataristas split into two groups. The first, a more reformist strain, was led by Victor Hugo Cardenas, who later served as vice president under Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, heading efforts to institutionalize a neoliberal, state-led multiculturalism. A second strain articulated a path of Aymara nationalism. A political wing of the movement, the Tupaj Katari Revolutionary Movement (MRTK) was launched. This radical stream of katarismo has been represented by Felipe Quispe (aka El Mallku), who took part in founding the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army in the 1980s. This group later became the MIP (Indigenous Movement Pachakuti), which became outspoken critics of the neoliberal Washington Consensus and which coalesced around ethnic-based solidarity. Quispe advocated the creation of a new sovereign country, the Republic of Quillasuyo, named after one of the four regions of the old empire where the Incas conquered the Aymaras. Current Vice President of Bolivia Alvaro Garcia Linera was a member of this group.
Katarista organizations were weakened during the 1980s. In this context NGOs began to appropriate katarista symbols. Populist parties, such as CONDEPA, also began to integrate katarista symbols in their discourse. After the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR) had incorporated katarista themes in its 1993 election campaign, other mainstream parties followed suit (most notably the Revolutionary Left Movement).
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