The most widespread and intractable forest fires ever recorded in Bolivia ravaged the lowland regions of Santa Cruz, Beni, La Paz and Cochabamba last year, making 2019 a particularly dark period for the country and for Indigenous Peoples as many of the affected areas were on Indigenous territories and conservation areas.
The indigenous peoples of Bolivia facing the fires and a new development model
The international press clearly showed how the fire swept through the Brazilian Amazon and Bolivian forests. The images of calcined trees and animals suffering from the voracity of the flames brought climate change and environmental depredation to the forefront. However, in the shadow of the Amazon, other victims are invisible: the indigenous peoples that live in the jungle and mountains, and establish reciprocal relations with Mother Earth.
According to the 2012 National Census, 41% of the Bolivian population aged 15 and over is of indigenous origin, although the 2017 projections from the National Statistics Institute (INE) indicate that this may now have increased to 48%.1 Of the 36 peoples recognised in the country, most Quechua (49.5%) and Aymara (40.6%) speakers live in the Andean area where they self-identify into 16 nationalities.