The Clandestine Nation:
Indigenism and national subjects
of Bolivia in the films of Jorge Sanjinés

by Leonardo García-Pabón
translated from the Spanish by Maura Furfey

In a speech delivered on receiving honors from the mayor of Cochabamba in 1991 (July 19), Jorge Sanjinés (1936- ) emphasized contemporary Bolivian society’s strong racist and discriminatory traits. The speech should not have surprised any who knew his cinematographic work, which is essentially political and also the most serious in Latin America in approaching indigenous Andean cultures. New in his speech was a slight allusion to class struggle in describing the Bolivian situation (clearly times have changed) and a vocabulary referring almost exclusively to a nation’s construction rather than revolution. Sanjinés spoke as follows:

Far off is the construction of an organic nation, without discrimination, racially and socially integrated, in which all the people participate in the mechanisms that generate decisions; this would be a society that watches out for everyone without emotion, furnishes justice and protection to everyone, and prides itself in each person and may not be ashamed of anyone. Certainly that nation is still distant.1

Sanjinés’ speech, denouncing racism in Bolivia, essentially calls its listeners to reflect on what it is to be Bolivian or who is Bolivian. This question always seems tedious and disturbing within a society where every effort of the dominant classes to forge a “civilized” nation rests on contempt for the indigenous.2 This preoccupation for what and who is Bolivian in the framework of Bolivia’s racial and cultural conflicts comprises the essence of Sanjinés’ film, The Clandestine Nation (La nación clandestina,1989). However, the movie has a much more complicated narrative than simply denouncing racial, social, and economic injustices.

Sanjinés’ film-production up to The Flags of Dawn (Las banderas del amanecer, 1984) ended what the critic Carlos D. Mesa called the filmmaker’s stage of political radicalization, a stage that started with The Courage of the People (El coraje del pueblo, 1971). Unlike that film, The Clandestine Nation returns to certain characteristics of And So It Is (Ukamau, 1966) and Blood of the Condor (Yawar Mallku, 1969). Notable shifts here include the reappearance of the individual protagonist in place of a collective one; the abandonment of the techniques of Brechtian distancing, in which the presence of a narrator sets the stage for the events, as in The Principal Enemy (El enemigo principal, 1973) and Get Out (Fuera de aquí, 1977); and the use of documentary techniques as in The Flags of Dawn.3 These changes imply the coming together of the two stages of Sanjinés’ work, those from before and after The Courage of the People.

Although Sanjinés’ cited lecture is distinct in his tone to his own previous declarations -- for example, those in his book Teoría y práctica de un cine junto al pueblo -- his intellectual and aesthetic position is still as political and committed to socially marginalized groups’ interests. In The Clandestine Nation, Sanjinés displaces the narrative tension previously dealing with the external conflict between indigenous community and state power (including U.S. imperialism) toward delineating the effects such conflict provokes inside the indigenous subject. In other words, denouncing the “principal enemy” has not dropped from Sanjinés’ political scene, but The Clandestine Nation now analyzes and reveals that enemy as shaping individual behaviors. Likewise in aesthetic terms, the director’s abandoning certain techniques does not mean his abandoning his basic postulate: a “cinema of the people.” On the contrary, Sanjinés still searches for ways to use a cinema whose language has as its base an “integral-sequence-shot” -- the basic concept of Sanjinés’ aesthetics -- which permits him to reflect indigenous cultures’ visual perception and world view.

The Clandestine Nation, therefore, introduces new elements that indicate Sanjinés’ films’ political evolution and aesthetic maturity. In this sense, the film notably proposes the indigenous community/state relation in different terms. To do that, the film adopts as a protagonist a character doubly-marginalized -- as much by his culture of origin as by an urban westernized world.

Tradition and rupture of literary indigenism

One can better appreciate the importance of The Clandestine Nation in Sanjinés’ cinematic development in the light of how literary indigenism has evolved in the Andean geographical and cultural area. On the surface, Sanjinés’ film-work seems to have few Latin American aesthetic antecedents. Critics have mostly discussed the aesthetic influence of Italian neorealism (Hess) and the political influence of Marxism (Gumucio Dagrón; Carlos D. Mesa). And few other filmmakers have profoundly tried to approach the indigenous world. Yet there is an underlying intertextual referent of Sanjinés’ work: indigenist literature. There are striking parallelisms between indigenist literary works and Sanjinés’ movies.

In this light, Sanjinés’ first two feature films, And So It Is and Blood of the Condor, develop themes and have points of view consonant with the indigenism of Alcides Arguedas and of Jorge Icaza in Huasipungo (1934). Especially And So It Is, which narrates the rape and death of an indigenous woman at the hands of a mestizo in a community on the banks of the Lake Titikaka, has a strong resemblance to Alcides Arguedas’ Raza de bronce (1945), a novel that also narrates the rape and assassination of an Indian woman in a location close to the same lake. From an ideological perspective, both works portray the indigenous people as the victims of abuses by whites and mestizos. Both continue to utilize the colonial metaphor of rape, in which the Indian woman symbolizes the violent exploitation of America and its native cultures. Also, both the literary text and the film resolve the conflict by depicting isolated acts of revenge, which neither bind themselves to the historic origins of social conflict nor open the doors to possible social and/or political solutions.

Perhaps A. Arguedas had a better perception of these conflicts’ historical roots. For example, in Raza de bronce the rape is perpetrated by white landowners, which more clearly indicates the “principal enemy,” while in the movie, the rape is carried out by a mestizo, who only serves the landholders’ power. Also, in the literary text the Indians get revenge through a community revolt, the level of which reflects social and historic tension, while Sanjinés places the revenge at the level of the individual in an incident without many social connotations.

However, Sanjinés does not repeat A. Arguedas ideologically.4 Luis Espinal, for example, writes,

The final fight, with the isolated men in the middle of the Andean high plateau (Altiplano), is a symbol of class struggle. That is the underlying reason why the movie also emphasizes the parallelism between the act of stealing his wife and the act of stealing the fruit of his labor; the rapist and the exploiter are the same person (316).

Although to make the mestizo the representative of a class relies on an inexact generalization,5 Espinal’s criticism aptly notes that Sanjinés raises the implicit idea that economic exploitation is the cause of violence against the Indians; this is better than pretending, as A. Arguedas suggests, that a bad patron causes the violence and that a change in the exploiter’s personality would change the Indian’s condition. For the same reason, the assertion of some critics (Gumucio Dagrón 227; Carlos D. Mesa 85) that And So It Is seems an “arguedian” movie does not take into account that Sanjinés breaks with A. Arguedas at a decisive point, in particular in the way the filmmaker recreates the Indians’ narrative, psychological, and cultural time.

In fact, what distinguishes Sanjinés from A. Arguedas is the construction of narrative time, and not only because the two artists work in different narrative media. A. Arguedas’ novel has a narrative based on action. From a campesino’s descent to the valleys to an indigenous woman’s rape and death, each event provokes others and this chain provides the book’s narrative framework. While Sanjinés also utilizes events in order to move the narration, he constructs a cinematic style that places emphasis on time spent waiting. As Espinal says,

All of And So It Is is a time of expectancy, like an Aeschylus drama, with the profound taciturnity of a campesino who seems to express himself only through his quena [Indian flute] (135).

The importance the film’s narrative gives to expectancy does not derive from an idealistic mythology of Indians, which would portray them as being impenetrable and taciturn while expecting who knows what destiny, but rather waiting represents an important element in Sanjinés’ whole aesthetic project, which tries to understand and transmit the experience of Aymara time. This is unthinkable in the novelist A. Arguedas’ mentality, since he is limited by his class position as wealthy landowner, and is one of the main ways Sanjinés and A. Arguedas differ in approaching the Indian world. In Sanjinés’ film, the narrator’s point of view is partially constructed according to indigenous cultural parameters. In other words, the filmmaker here tries to introduce the Indian not only as an object of consideration, which A. Arguedas and a good part of indigenist literature did, but as a subject narrating the film itself. To do this, in the tradition of Italian neorealism, Sanjinés also integrates indigenous actors in his movies. As a result, Sanjinés’ work does not so much explore indigenous psychology (Espinal 135; Carlos D. Mesa 85) but recreate an Indian subject’s vision of the world.

During the production of Blood of the Condor, such an exploration of Indian subjectivity encountered a decisive moment. An anecdote told various times by Sanjinés and by his scriptwriter Oscar Soria is very significant in this aspect. Sanjinés tells how he was forced to rethink his method of dialogue with the Kaata community where he went to film Blood of the Condor. In the face of resistance from the community to collaborate with “those whites who called themselves Bolivian but who didn't even know how to speak Quechua” (Sanjinés, Teoría y práctica 27), the film crew had to look for support from a community Yatiri or fortune teller. In Sanjinés’ words:

We had come to the conclusion that it was inexcusable to give an indication of humility proportional to the preponderance, arrogance, and paternalism with which the film crew had acted up until now within this ambiance in which respect for peoples and traditions was fundamental.


To humble ourselves before the verdict of a jaiwaco ceremony [ceremony of offering and divination] -- which would develop in the presence and under the vigilance of all the members of the Kaata community -- became the best means for not only appeasing the community, but for obtaining its collective participation in deciding the destiny of the work which this group proposed to do and to accomplish it.6

In this way, only after the Yatiri’s favorable verdict could the crew start the filming with the total, extended collaboration of the community.

That which was seeded in And So It Is becomes explicit and determinant in Blood of the Condor. Henceforth, Sanjinés develops a political-aesthetic which, he says, requires the “acquisition of a new, liberated, and liberating language, [which] cannot be born except through penetrating, investigating, and integrating oneself in the people’s culture, which is alive and dynamic” (Sanjinés, Teoría y práctica 32). In the same way as Sanjinés sought the participation of indigenous actors, in his screenwriting he seeks to create a narrator and a perspective constructed out of cultural Indian elements. He understands the need to communicate with social groups without using the strategies employed by “imperialist” means of communication. For the Bolivian filmmaker:

Communicability should not yield to simplistic exigency. In order to transmit the content in its essence and profundity, the creative process itself must be thought through with a maximum of sensibility in order to grasp and find the most elevated artistic resources that would correspond culturally with the recipient. These should also grasp those internal rhythms that would correspond to the viewer’s mentality, sensibility, and vision of reality.7

The integral-sequence shot

To convey the indigenous world’s mentality, sensibility, and vision of reality is a principle that underlies all of Sanjinés’ work. Stylistically, his aesthetic formulation of these principles is condensed into the previously mentioned concept of the integral-sequence-shot. I must expand a bit on this key concept. As Pedro Susz indicates, for Sanjinés this is “the most adequate narrative resource for visual translation of the circular conception of Aymara time” (169). This kind of sequence shot tries to integrate and make the spectator participate in a narrative point of view common to these recipients. Thus, in The Principal Enemy:

The movement of the camera only interpreted points of view, so that the spectator’s dramatic needs could cease to be it in order that the spectator transform him/herself into a participant. Sometimes this sequence shot moves to the close-up, respecting the distance that would really be possible. This may mean opening up a space between shoulders and heads to let us get close enough to see and hear the prosecutor. To cut to a detail shot is to brutally impose the point of view of an author who stamps and imposes significations to be accepted. To arrive at the close-up in between the other views, and united to the others, adds another perspective, contains another attitude that’s more coherent with what else is happening inside the frame, and in the content itself. 8

This cinematographic language is more or less present in the director’s films posterior to Blood of the Condor and is in some way the mark of Sanjinés’ films.

As Blood of the Condor marks a precise moment in the development of a cinematographic aesthetic, it also marks a new political level. Besides the implications of a people’s cinema opening up to their political participation, for the first time Sanjinés explicitly points out the principal enemy of Bolivia’s indigenous society: North American imperialism and its servant, the Bolivian state. In this sense, Blood of the Condor completely distances itself from any kind of Arguedian proposition and rather approaches Jorge Icaza’s ideas in Huasipungo. Both that Ecuadorian novel and the Bolivian film have narratives based on denouncing imperialist manipulation and the way that it creates social conflicts between indigenous communities and national states. Huasipungo denounces the occupation of indigenous land by the rich landholders of the region whose goal is to allow exploitation by North American companies; Blood of the Condor denounces the sterilization of Indian women performed by a North American program for cooperation and development (Alliance for Progress) 9 and the way such actions are done with the collaboration of the Bolivian government.

However, Sanjinés notably differs not only from Huasipungo but also from indigenist literature before the work of José María Arguedas; he uses a metaphor of blood to replace that of the raped indigenous woman. Without leaving the semantic space of violent fertility or sterilization, Sanjinés goes beyond the fact of violation/exploitation itself in order to visualize its destructive extent and consequently the social and cultural bleeding of the indigenous and popular Bolivian social classes.10

Representing the loss of indigenous vitality in Blood of the Condor are the sterilization of indigenous women without their knowledge or consent and the blood loss of the Mallku (leader of the indigenous community), wounded by the police of the region and for whom no one can obtain blood in the city. Sanjinés denounces the double aggression to the indigenous communities: against the women whom imperialism sterilizes and against the men who try to defend them from this violence. Imperialism and the national state share a similar attitude of aggression toward the Indian. By means of the blood metaphor, in Blood of the Condor this aggression acquires its true dimensions, which include the following social elements: racism against the Indians which originated in idealistic colonial prejudices, such of those of blood purity or of seeing the Indians as “naturally” sloths and beasts; the national state’s disregard for indigenous life; the negation of an indigenous communities’ future; and the nation’s loss of social and cultural vitality.

In addition, Blood of the Condor indicates another theme that will be fully explored in The Clandestine Nation: those internal conflicts within the individual provoked by the social and political systems to which that person is subjected. For example, in Blood of the Condor, the women’s sterilization provokes conflicts in the indigenous couple, as seen in the physical aggression of the drunk man against his wife; or the protagonist’s brother’s acculturation -- pressured by the racism of the city environment, he denies his Indian ancestry. That is to say, the movie shows the consequences in the lives of individuals and a family as they face troubles provoked by the political conflict between the state (and North American imperialism) and the indigenous community.

Sanjinés’ later movies show a change of emphasis. Leaving behind the conflicts of the individual protagonists, the director focuses on exploring the possibilities of political organization within indigenous communities. From this, for example, comes his use of collective protagonists and his use of dialogue about whether or not the tactics of guerilla warfare serve a campesino struggle -- as in The Principal Enemy. Similarly, The Flags of Dawn depicts periods of democracy and the political organization and resistance of the campesinos and workers. The impact of the socio-political on the individual is developed once again in The Clandestine Nation, but now with an added complexity. Now the narrative takes up more than just one social front (the indigenous) and questions all Bolivian social structure.

Returning in order to die,
dying in order to return

The thematic richness of The Clandestine Nation has to do with the protagonist’s position in Bolivian society. In Sanjinés’ previous movies the protagonists, individual or collective, belonged to a clearly defined and fixed social group. Here, Sebastián Mamani, this movie’s protagonist, is a drifter. He is a person who loses and then recovers his place of origin. In this sense, with this film Sanjinés does come close to the work of the above mentioned novelist, Peruvian José María Arguedas, by means of a narrative glance which opens itself to opposite worlds.

Let me briefly summarize the film’s main plot. The Clandestine Nation is the story of a rejection and of a reconciliation. Sebastián Mamani abandons his community in order to go and live in the city. There, with the will of integrating himself into the “white” world, he changes his name from Mamani, a typical indigenous last name, to Maisman, a last name that sounds English. Yet this move and name change do not change his social situation; little by little, he senses his own corruption as he tries to gain access to better economic and social conditions. In spite of his efforts, Sebastián is used and despised by the city people just for being Indian. His Indianness returns again and again, like a stigma, to disturb his social and human relations. When his life in the city gets to the point where he cannot endure it any more, he decides to return to his community. There he is assigned the leadership position (Jilakata), but he cannot perform well because he has forgotten the political concept of communal power and authority. His contact with urban power and corruption has marked and separated him from the practices of his community. Sebastián makes unilateral decisions without consulting the community and without taking their interests into account. Moreover, his actions, like those of the government he served, seek only to satisfy his personal interests. Prosecuted by the community, he is expelled and threatened with death if he tries to return.

At this moment, the protagonist is fractured since he no longer has a social space to belong to. He is neither a Bolivian citizen, with full rights and duties -- since he’s Indian; nor is he an organic part of the indigenous community -- because he has been corrupted by the state power. Sebastián returns to the city looking for a way to recover his place among his own people. He realizes that it is only a ritual, an ancient aesthetic ceremony -- the dance of the Jacha Tata Danzante -- that can return him to his community. But the price for such social restitution is nothing less than his life. The dance that Sebastian chooses, executed in times of starvation and as a sacrifice to appease the gods, is performed until the dancer dies. With this dance, Sebastián will redeem himself for “betraying” his community and recuperate his place in that social space, if not in lived reality then symbolically. The final scene shows us his burial and -- as in El Greco’s “The Burial of Count Orgaz” -- in the film’s imagery Sebastián is among those who accompany his own funeral courtege. A “new” Sebastián, redeemed, is burying the old one -- victim and traitor at the same time.

Through Sebastián’s life and death of, the movie shows the constitution of a national subject and not just the awakening of an indigenous conscience, as in Sanjinés’ other films. One sees the constitution of that national subject in Sebastian’s going astray, which permits the film to approach and critique many of the social spaces and national institutions that serve to construct subjects as “good” citizens and “true” Bolivians. Thus, the script has Sebastián serve in the army, an institution that inculcates in indigenous conscripts the rejection of their ethnic identity; and then it shows him as part of the government’s secret and repressive police, a space of even greater identification with state values. These spaces move the protagonists further and further away from his cultural roots but only partially integrate him into a society where being Indian translates into never being accepted as equal. Sebastián’s passage through these institutions structure his identity as a Bolivian but always with the condition of that he deny his Indian origin. As these state systems educate citizens in love of the country, in order to assure the formation of “good” national subjects, they also inculcate a contempt for indigenous social and cultural roots. The scenes of Sebastián’s return to his village, when he already decided to dance and die, illustrate how in all those spaces directly related to the national state, there is an extreme ignorance and denial of the values of the indigenous world.

Sanjinés situates the protagonist’s final return during an historical moment of social agitation and political repression. On his return trip, in the middle of the Altiplano, Sebastián is detained by the military who at first see him as a subversive element -- as is to be expected, but after realizing that he is only an “Indian,” they let him pass. Further on, he encounters a leftist university leader escaping from the military, but in spite of his protective and paternalistic attitude toward this “poor” Indian, the revolutionary young man cannot communicate with Sebastián as an equal. Sanjinés here emphasizes that neither political wing, right or left, understand nor even less can create a worthy social space for a Indian Bolivian citizen.

With The Clandestine Nation, Sanjinés focuses on another aspect of the Bolivian social condition absent from his previous films: the condition of the “mesticized” and transcultured Indian. The Clandestine Nation follows in a long tradition of indigenous or Indian-mestizo narratives that comprise a so-called “heterogeneous” current of Latin American literature.

Although the heterogeneous literatures are exceptionally complex, the concept that define them is rather simple: they use literatures in which one or more of its constituent elements correspond to a socio-cultural system that is not what directs the composition of other elements put into action in a concrete process of production. (Cornejo Polar 60).

Precisely, if anything characterizes Guamán Poma de Ayala, the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, the drummer Santos Vargas, or José María Arguedas -- those most representative writers of the Andean indigenous world, it is their living and speaking from such a duality’s conflict, from such cultural, political, and social heterogeneity. In this tradition, The Clandestine Nation accomplishes for cinema what José María Arguedas achieves for indigenous literature -- to create a textual space that permits speaking of/from the intersection of those two worlds without losing a profound identification with the indigenous world. 11

For that reason, Sebastián Mamani is not easily classified according to the typology of heroes in the Western narrative tradition. He is not a victorious epic-hero nor a problematic-bourgeois anti-hero (in Lukács’ terminology), nor a romantic character, rebellious and demonic. He is not an ideal hero who conserves the indigenous world’s “pure and sacred” values and fights westernized culture’s contamination. Nor does the Indian who denies his culture, after having been assimilated to the westernized world, become the worst enemy of that which is Indian -- as the mestizo or “mesticized” Indian has usually been represented.12

What makes Sebastián an extraordinary character is that, subject to error and fall, in his wandering destiny he discovers the place and value of his culture and his community within the Bolivian nation. By surrendering his life to his community, he is also offering his personal experience as an Indian and as a Bolivian to constitute new social subjects. At the end of the movie, we have a Sebastián whose identity is shaped out of a series of identities that he has been assuming in his trajectory through the spaces which form the nation. In reality, the new Sebastián who looks at the burial of the old Sebastián is a new subject. He is not only indigenous but also national, nourished from his native culture as well as from his experience with the national state institutions. Sanjinés seems to tell us that the process of the successive reconstitutions of Sebastián’s identity provides a new mold for the formation of national subjects. That it is to say, it is a vision of those subjects who can submerge themselves in the world of the state without losing indigenous values or with the capacity of recuperating them. In a Bolivian world, populated increasingly with Sebastiáns, with cultural Yanakunas (wandering Indians who do not belong to a particular community), that place-without-place is the privileged space from which one can formulate a new national subject.

Yet, not all of the Sebastiáns know how to return to their origins. The place of wandering and of passage through state institutions does not guarantee modification of the actual national subject. It is a position, on the contrary, more vulnerable than one endorsed through fixed and monolithic identities. However, it also offers more liberty and knowledge and a better vision of the nation. For this reason, the Sebastián that returns has more integrity than the one who does not return or the one who does not even leave the community.

From this perspective, the end of the movie acquires another dimension. Which Sebastián is buried? Without doubt, the Sebastián who could not return, who stayed trapped in the corruption of power and who betrayed his own. Yet the new Sebastián, the one who looks at his own burial, the one who returns to recuperate indigenous values, is as different from the one who is buried as from the one who left the community to go to the city for the first time. In other words, what is buried is the impossibility of being Indian and being Bolivian at the same time. This new Sebastián now represents something more than the world of the community. He represents a more ample subject: the national subject.

Sanjinés’ political proposal in The Clandestine Nation is rather bold and does not have anything in common with the tradition of literary Indigenism of Alcides Arguedas and Jorge Icaza, nor with the leftist projects that since González Prada and Mariátegui have tried to solve the “problem” of the Indian in the state. Since the first years of the independent nations in Latin America, for the state and its critics (liberal, conservative, or leftist), the Indian has been a problem and not a social sector or an integral part of the nation. And this problem of the Indian gets reduced to ideas about granting land and providing education, seemingly technical solutions. These discourses, of course, do not take into consideration the political, social, and cultural values of the Indian. It is the state, the social and political institution of governance assimilated from the Western experience, that seems to serve as the political and ideological frame in which to “solve the problems” created by those uncomfortable, yet necessary, groups. Be it a socialist or capitalist solution, the final result is the same: the integration of the Indian into state-national machinery.

For Sanjinés the situation is the opposite; that is to say, he tries to think of the state-community relation in a scheme different from the Western one. For the filmmaker, the only possible form of Bolivian nationality now is one of imagining the nation within the framework of Indian community values, within the framework of moral and cultural relations that the indigenous groups can propose to the Bolivian community. The real problem is not the Indians nor their communities but the fact that the state and the groups associated with its political power cannot understand the nation as a cultural, or better, as a multi-cultural phenomenon. To imagine a Bolivian community from this perspective acquires a new revolutionary reach, even more profound than Sanjinés’ proposals in his previous films.

The integral-sequence-shot in Sanjinés’ political-aesthetic discourse now acquires another meaning. It is more than just “a stupendous work of camera in constant movement.” It is “the more adequate narrative resource for visual translation of the circular conception of Aymara time, as well as of the indestructible bond of the individual from this culture with his social and natural environment” (Susz 169). But above everything else, the integral-sequence-shot is a profound form of knowing and understanding the larger Bolivian reality.

As a matter of fact, Sebastián’s life is, in the form of its contents (Hejmslev), like the very sequence shot that integrates all Bolivian social spaces. Sebastián’s life becomes the eye of the camera that adopts the points of view by which and in which national subjects are constituted. This eye goes accumulating in its gaze interrogations of the other social actors with whom the protagonist enters into contact. For this reason, Sebastián’s view is at the movie’s end a heavy look, weighed down by the social dysfunction created by the present national state. It is such a heavy load that the only form of liberation is death. In order to accede to a liberating death and not one of defeat, Sebastián resorts to the ritual of his community, which brings with it the memory of a cultural past. He seeks to free himself from a wandering existence in which he has been kept from his desire to be Bolivian and Indian at the same time. He needs to transform this wandering to make it offer him a possible place to formulate his self as a national subject. To that end, he searches in his most intimate soul for a light, a remembrance, a memory of his childhood that even his community has forgotten. Thus appears, with its reconciliatory power, the memory of the dance of Jacha Tata Danzante.

With this dance, Sanjinés introduces into his film the memory of an ancient past, and he recuperates the long memory, to use a concept developed by Silvia Rivera, that goes further than recent history and back to the colony. Thus, Sebastián’s moment of lucidity: when he is denied the possibility of occupying neither of the two worlds he has experienced in his life, he realizes what he has to do in order to recuperate his cultural origins, to unload the heavy experience of his life, to extract his body like one of the “aparapitas” (Indian workers carrying loads in Bolivian markets) that Jaime Saenz describes, and to open the doors to the formation of a new national subject. This is also the moment when he remembers the dance that he had seen when he was very young. He recuperates an infantile memory and a history before the creation of the Bolivian state. In his gesture, awareness of the present and a memory of origin unite and compliment each other. That is to say, his awareness of his national identity needs to be rethought in terms of his indigenous culture, his memory of his vital and mythic foundations, and also his experience of the historical present.

Works cited

Albo, Xavier y Josep M. Barnadas. La cara campesina de nuestra historia. La Paz: UNITAS, 1985.

Arguedas, Alcides. Raza de bronce. Ed. Lorente Medina, Antonio. Madrid: Unesco, 1988.


Arzáns Orsúa y Vela, Bartolomé. Historia de la Villa Imperial de Potosí. Ed Hanke, Lewis y Gunnar Mendoza. Providence: Brown University Press, 1965. 3 vols.


Calderón, Fernando y Jorge Dandler, ed. Bolivia: La fuerza histórica del campesinado. Geneva/La Paz: UNRISD, 1986.


Cornejo Polar, Antonio. Literatura y sociedad en el Perú: La novela indigenista. Lima: Editorial Lasontay, 1980.


Espinal, Luis. “El cine boliviano según Luis Espinal.” El cine boliviano según Luis Espinal. Ed. Carlos D. Mesa. La Paz: Don Bosco, 1982. 134-135.


Galeano, Eduardo. Las venas abiertas de América Latina. México: Siglo XXI, 1971.


Gumucio Dagrón, Alfonso. Historia del cine en Bolivia. La Paz: Los Amigos del Libro, 1982.


Hess, John. “Neo-Realism and New Latin American Cinema: Bicycle Thief and Blood of the Condor.” Mediating Two Worlds. Cinematic Encounters in the Americas. Ed. King, John, Ana M. López and Manuel Alvarado. London: British Film Institute, 1993. 104-118.


Icaza, Jorge. Huasipungo. Barcelona: Plaza y Janes, 1991.


López, Ana M. “At the Limits of Documentary: Hypertextual Transformation and the New Latin American Cinema.” The Social Documentary in Latin America. Ed. Julianne Burton. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990. 403-432.


Mesa, Carlos D. La aventura del cine boliviano: 1952-1985. La Paz: Editorial Gisbert, 1985.


Rivera Cusicanqui, Silvia. Oprimidos pero no vencidos. Luchas del campesinado aymara y qhechwa de Bolivia, 1900-1980. La Paz: Hisbol-CSUTCB, 1984.


________________. Violencia e identidad(es) cultural(es) en Bolivia. La Paz: CIPCA: Aruwiyiri, 1993.


Sanjinés, Jorge, Dir. El coraje del pueblo [The Courage of the People]. RAI. Grupo Ukamau, 1971.


_______________, Dir. El enemigo principal [The Principal Enemy]. Obrero campesinos y estudiantes latinoamericanos, 1973.


_______________, Dir. Fuera de aquí. [Get Out of Here]. U. de Quito. U. de los Andes. Grupo Ukamau, 1977.


_______________, Dir. La nación clandestina. [The Clandestine Nation]. Grupo Ukamau, 1989.


_______________, Dir. Ukamau [And So It Is]. Grupo Ukamau, 1966.


_______________, Dir. Yawar Mallku [Blood of the Condor]. Grupo Ukamau, 1969.


_______________ y Beatriz Palacios, Dir. Las banderas del amanecer. Grupo Ukamau, 1982.


_______________. “El pensamiento de Sanjinés. Cómo concibe la realidad el autor de ‘La nación clandestina.’” Facetas July 21 1991.


_______________ y Grupo Ukamau. Teoría y práctica de un cine junto al pueblo. México: Siglo XXI, 1979. [There is an English translation of this book: Theory and practice of a cinema with people. New York: Curbstone Press, 1989]

Susz, Pedro. Filmo-videografía boliviana básica (1904-1990). La Paz: Cinemateca, 1991



1 “Y es que la construcción de una nación orgánica, sin discriminaciones, integradora racial y socialmente, en la que el conjunto de sus habitantes participe de los mecanismos que generan decisiones; de aquella sociedad que vele por todos sin emociones, que proporcione justicia y protección a todos, que se enorgullezca de todos y no se avergüence de nadie, está pues todavía lejos.” (“El pensamiento de Sanjinés” 4)back

2 Bolivia is no exception to conceptualizing itself in terms of the classic dichotomy of barbarians versus civilized people that has dominated nation ideology in Latin America, where the barbarians are unfailingly the Indians. In spite of the importance and actuality of this dichotomy in Bolivia, few works have been written dedicated to studying the traits of ethnocentrism, racism, and eurocentrism in this society. However, historical works about political relations between state and indigenous community serve as an introduction to this theme: Oprimidos pero no vencidos by Silvia Rivera, Bolivia: La Fuerza histórica del campesinado, essays compiled by Fernando Calderón and Jorge Dandler and La cara campesina de nuestra historia by Xavier Albó and Josep M. Barnadas.back

3 For the importance of the documentary technique in Sanjinés’ filmwork, see Ana M. Lopez’ article.back

4 It is interesting to note that in Huasipungo, the end is also an indigenous revenge-revolt, like in Raza de bronce. But in this work, the indigenous community is portrayed as having much less consciousness of its unity than in Raza de bronce. Thus, the final uprising in Huasipungo is not a community decision but rather a collective act of desperation initiated by the indigenous protagonist when the government tries to take away their lands. In this sense, Huasipungo can be ideologically situated between Raza de bronce and And So It Is, because the individual actions in this novel end in community social acts, although spontaneously and disorganized.back

5 Gumucio Dagrón has indicated the confusion between race and social class as part of the ideological inconsistencies of And So It Is (226 and ss).back

6 “se había llegado a la conclusión de que era indispensable dar una muestra de humildad proporcional a la prepotencia, al desparpajo, al paternalismo con que el grupo había actuado hasta el momento en un medio en el que respeto por personas y tradiciones era fundamental. ... [S]ometerse al veredicto de la ceremonia del jaiwaco [ceremonia de ofrenda y vaticinio]-- que se desarrollaría en presencia y bajo la vigilancia de todos los miembros de la comunidad de Kaata -- era la mejor manera de rendir no sólo un desagravio a la comunidad sino de lograr la participación colectiva de la misma en la decisión sobre el destino del trabajo que el grupo proponía realizar y en la realización del mismo....” (Teoría y práctica 30-31)back

7 “La comunicabilidad no debe ceder al facilismo simplista. Para transmitir un contenido en su profundidad y esencia hace falta que la creación se exija el máximo de su sensibilidad para captar y encontrar los recursos artísticos más elevados que puedan estar en correspondencia cultural con el destinatario, que inclusive capten los ritmos internos correspondientes a la mentalidad, sensibilidad y visión de la realidad de los destinatarios.” (Teoría y práctica 59-60)back

8 “El movimiento de cámara interpretaba únicamente los puntos de vista, las necesidades dramáticas del espectador que podía dejar de serlo para transformarse en participante. A veces ese plano secuencia nos lleva hasta un primer plano respetando la distancia de acercamiento que en la realidad es posible, o bien, abriéndose campo entre hombros y cabezas para acercarnos a ver y oír al fiscal. Cortar a un gran primer plano era imponer brutalmente el punto de vista del autor que obliga e imprime significancias que deben aceptarse. Llegar al primer plano por entre los demás, y junto a los demás, interpreta otro sentido, contiene otra actitud más coherente con lo que está ocurriendo al interior del cuadro, en el contenido mismo.” (Sanjinés, Teoría y práctica 63-64)back

9 The Alliance for Progress was a program created by John F. Kennedy through the Organization of American States in 1961. The program lasted for ten years and it did not reach its economic goals. It was also a major attempt by the U.S. to ideologically fight communism in Latin America. Its obvious imperialistic intention was strongly criticized by politicians, artists, and intellectuals all over Latin America.back

10 This metaphor will be used some years later by Eduardo Galeano in his book, Las venas abiertas de América Latina. This book is full of metaphors of social and economic bleeding. The metaphor, however, is not new; it is present in some colonial texts, and notably in the Historia de la Villa Imperial de Potosí by Bartolome Arzáns.back

11 The parallelisms between the Peruvian writer and Bolivian filmmaker are notable. The Peruvian writer goes from a limited representation of the Andean world, with no reference to broader socio-political spaces, to the representation of indigenous problems in the framework of the struggle against imperialism (Cornejo Polar 80-88). The same occurs with Sanjinés and the transformation that goes from And So It Is to The Principal Enemy and to The Clandestine Nation. Equally, in spite of the growth of social or political space represented, both Sanjinés and Jose Maria Arguedas inalterably maintain “their first and most fervent compromise” with the Indian (Cornejo Polar 80-88).back

12 Not only J.M. Arguedas, but also Franz Tamayo, among others writers in Bolivia, have contributed to create an ideology that portraits the mestizo as an enemy or a degradation of the Indian. For a discussion of the relations between Indians and mestizos, and the impossibility of defining the mestizo without making reference to its belonging in higher or lesser degree to the Indian culture, see: Violencia e identidad(es) culturales by Silvia Rivera. back


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