Music in urban La Paz, Bolivian nationalism, and the early history of cosmopolitan Andean music: 1936--1970

Fernando Emilio Rios
School of Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
July, 2005


Based on extensive archival research conducted in La Paz and multi-sited fieldwork in Bolivia, Argentina and France, this dissertation chronicles the gradual construction of urban folkloric versions of rural Andean indigenous musical practices as central emblems of Bolivian national identity. Strikingly, Bolivia is the only country in all of the Americas where the foremost national music prominently and overtly references Amerindian cultural practices---a similar development has not occurred in other Latin American countries, including those with numerically significant Amerindian populations such as Peru and Ecuador. Moreover, Andean folkloric music has long functioned as a more prominent emblem of Bolivian national identity than other realms of national culture, such as visual art, language, food, sports and spiritual practices. Yet Bolivian government policies have consistently marginalized Andean indigenous peoples and lifeways. Addressing this paradox, my dissertation contributes to Latin Americanist scholarship that, in contrast to the many book-length musicological studies on 'nationalizing blackness' (e.g., BĂ©hague 1994, Moore 1997, Wade 2000), has rarely analyzed the folklorization of Amerindian musical practices and its relationship with state-directed nationalist projects. The main objective of this dissertation is to provide a chronological history of the emergence of Andean folkloric music in Bolivia in relation to sites in Argentina and France. Andean folkloric music's rise to the status of the Bolivian national music reveals the intersection of nationalist projects with trans-state developments, and thus this dissertation provides further evidence of the intertwined relationship of nationalism with modernist-capitalist cosmopolitanism---a general phenomenon theorized by ethnomusicologist Thomas Turino (2000). A secondary objective of this dissertation is to chronicle Bolivian public discourse regarding local musical practices that articulated, in an escalating manner from the late 1930s to the 1970s, with collective feelings of Bolivian national loss stemming from a long history of foreign appropriation. Other Bolivianist scholars have noted the ubiquity of sentiments of national loss in urban Bolivia and, more specifically, of national outrage regarding foreign musical theft. This dissertation, however, is the first scholarly account that examines how and why these particular sentiments have contributed to the inculcation of Bolivian national sentiment.