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Along the Bolivian Highway

Social Mobility and Political Culture in a New Middle Class

By Miriam Shakow

Publication Year: 2014

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Contemporary Ethnography


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Note on Language

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pp. ix-x

Central Bolivia is a bilingual region in which many people speak a mixture of Spanish and Quechua, Latin America’s most widely spoken indigenous language. Throughout the book, Spanish and Quechua words are italicized to illustrate the multilingual character of conversation in this region and the practice of creative...

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pp. 1-19

This book traces the experience of a new Bolivian middle class. Though seldom acknowledged, middle classes have deeply influenced politics and social life in Bolivia, as in much of Latin America and the Third World.1 Over the past twenty years, with the rise of powerful new leftist parties, Bolivians have faced surprising dilemmas in their everyday lives. Those who...

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1. The Formation of a New Middle Class

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pp. 20-33

Marisol, a Sacaba pharmacist, provides one example of the difficulties the MAS government faced in convincing most Bolivians to identify themselves as indigenous members of the working or campesino (peasant) classes. In August 2009, four years after Evo was elected president, Marisol was thirtythree years old. She had opened her pharmacy five years before in Sacaba’s...

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2. The Intimate Politics of New Middle Classes in Sacaba

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pp. 34-72

Doña Saturnina Ramírez was in her late sixties in 2013, a plump, formidable woman.1 She had many godchildren, evidence that she was held in high esteem by many people in her hometown of Choro, even as some of Choro’s poorest residents were intimidated by her sometimes severe manner and by her children’s astounding professional achievements. Doña...

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3. Middling Sacabans Respond to Evo and MAS

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pp. 73-118

As she stepped through my front door in January 2006, a week after Evo Morales’s inauguration as president, Amanda fairly pounced on the newspaper on my kitchen table. She asked if it listed Evo’s newly announced cabinet ministers. I opened the newspaper and showed her the chart that listed the ministers’ names and pictures. This line of photos presented a...

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4. Condemning Clientelism

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pp. 119-154

In early May 2006, the leaders of the Sacaba municipal branch of the MAS party called an emergency public meeting. Sacaba MAS leaders were outraged that the Sacaba City Council had recently forced the MAS mayor, Luis Orellana, to resign. City council members had charged Mayor Orellana with corruption and the failure to build...

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5. Laments of Betrayal

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pp. 155-181

Many people in Sacaba, like national policy makers, argued that clientelism, liberal democracy, and grassroots indigenist democracy were utterly opposed to one another. Yet these distinctions often broke down in practice. What one person condemned as peguismo, the giving and receiving of patronage jobs through clientelism, another person defended as affirmative...

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6. Middle Classes and Debates over the Definition of Community

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pp. 182-208

October 3, 2005, was a bright, chilly, spring morning. In the Rural Planning Office on the second floor of Sacaba’s city hall, several men and women were entering data into Excel spreadsheets. The high ceilings and battered, ornate ironwork on the office doors betrayed the age of the building, circa 1880. Inside, across from me at a scuffed table, sat Don Carlos and...

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pp. 209-216

I was leaving Doña Patricia’s house in the urban corridor of Sacaba in May 2006. We had been speaking for three hours, during which she had offered tale after tale of political double-dealing, the selfishness of other political activists, and the betrayal of her hopes to become a Sacaba city council member. Her faith in the Sacaba MAS party—or any political party—as an...


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pp. 217-230

Family Tree of Doña Saturnina Ramírez

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pp. 231-232


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pp. 233-234


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pp. 235-248


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pp. 249-256

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pp. 257-262

On the long road that has led to this book, I have been lucky to have wonderful guides and traveling companions. My first thanks go to Brunilda Sánchez, Cristóbal Díaz, and Armando, Efraín, Emiliano, Felicidad, Herminia, and Ladislao Díaz Sánchez, as well as Luís Alberto Díaz Hinojosa. I am also greatly indebted to Sonia Hidalgo, Víctor Hugo Sánchez, and Rosa...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812209822
E-ISBN-10: 0812209826
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812246148

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 8 illus.
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Contemporary Ethnography
Series Editor Byline: Kirin Narayan, Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 881781696
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Along the Bolivian Highway

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sacaba (Bolivia) -- Politics and government.
  • Political culture -- Bolivia -- Sacaba.
  • Middle class -- Political activity -- Bolivia -- Sacaba.
  • Group identity -- Bolivia -- Sacaba.
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