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Throughout 1952 and 1953, Bolivia experienced a violent National Revolution. The Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) rose to power on the platform of universal suffrage, nationalization of tin mines, and the breakup of Bolivia’s traditional agricultural system. On August 2, 1953, President Estenssoro of the MNR signed Agrarian Reform into law before a crowd of indigenous leaders, who celebrated the victorious moment. In appearances, the new government had fulfilled its promise of land redistribution, enfranchising the long-oppressed indigenous population.

However, the underlying presence of the United States convoluted reform. Unlike many other Latin American countries during the post-WWII era, the new Bolivian government had both the recognition and financial support of the United States. The relationship between the MNR and the U.S. changed the nature of the revolution, co-opting it in favor of U.S. interests during the beginning of the Cold War. This created a clash between the “official” Bolivian Revolution, and the one enacted in the countryside by an armed peasantry.

The purpose of this research is to reconstruct the moment of indigenous victory on August 2nd. Primary sources are translated accounts of rural Bolivians drawn from ethnographic accounts, as well as many declassified U.S. documents that explicitly draw a money trail. Along with secondary literature, these sources are used as evidence for an analytical historical narrative. It asserts that peasants, or campesinos, were an organized force in their rural communities, driving forward a revolutionary reform process that the MNR withdrew from due to U.S. pressure. As a result, the Agrarian Reform Law was not nearly as beneficial as it seemed. Instead, it illustrates the subversive dynamic between the Bolivian MNR, the U.S. government, and a radicalized native population.

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Apr 15th, 10:40 AM Apr 15th, 11:00 AM

Creating the Campesino: United States’ Influence on Agrarian Reform during the 1952-1953 Bolivian National Revolution

Throughout 1952 and 1953, Bolivia experienced a violent National Revolution. The Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) rose to power on the platform of universal suffrage, nationalization of tin mines, and the breakup of Bolivia’s traditional agricultural system. On August 2, 1953, President Estenssoro of the MNR signed Agrarian Reform into law before a crowd of indigenous leaders, who celebrated the victorious moment. In appearances, the new government had fulfilled its promise of land redistribution, enfranchising the long-oppressed indigenous population.

However, the underlying presence of the United States convoluted reform. Unlike many other Latin American countries during the post-WWII era, the new Bolivian government had both the recognition and financial support of the United States. The relationship between the MNR and the U.S. changed the nature of the revolution, co-opting it in favor of U.S. interests during the beginning of the Cold War. This created a clash between the “official” Bolivian Revolution, and the one enacted in the countryside by an armed peasantry.

The purpose of this research is to reconstruct the moment of indigenous victory on August 2nd. Primary sources are translated accounts of rural Bolivians drawn from ethnographic accounts, as well as many declassified U.S. documents that explicitly draw a money trail. Along with secondary literature, these sources are used as evidence for an analytical historical narrative. It asserts that peasants, or campesinos, were an organized force in their rural communities, driving forward a revolutionary reform process that the MNR withdrew from due to U.S. pressure. As a result, the Agrarian Reform Law was not nearly as beneficial as it seemed. Instead, it illustrates the subversive dynamic between the Bolivian MNR, the U.S. government, and a radicalized native population.