January 15, 2019 admin


Conflict transformation workshop with Monkoxi indigenous leaders from Lomerio, San Lorenzo, April 2017.

Mirna Inturias, Iokiñe Rodriguez and Miguel Aragón

Note: A Spanish version of this blog was published in the Acknowl-EJ Blog in May 2018. Spanish-English translation Diana Jimenez.

The Monkoxi were the first indigenous nation in Bolivia to self-proclaim themselves autonomous. This took place during a general assembly on March 28-29th of 2008. The vindication of the rights to autonomy is part of a long-term strategy set out by the Monkoxi to strengthen their territorial control and increase their chances of successfully confronting the increasing external pressures for resource extraction – such as wood and minerals – mounting on their land. In the 1980s they initiated a community-based forestry initiative that is still running, followed by a claim of property rights over 260.000 hectares (Territorio de Comunidades de Origen (TCO) in Spanish), which they obtained in 2006. On the grounds of the 2008 autonomy self-proclamation, in 2009 the Monkox people presented an Autonomous Statute to the national government, formally beginning the legal journey of demand for recognition of territorial autonomy. This journey, and all the efforts it entailed, yielded results on April 24th 2018, when Bolivia’s Constitutional Tribunal declared as constitutional the Indigenous Territorial Autonomy Statute of the Monkoxi Nation.

Lomerio is an iconic case in Bolivia of struggle for, and advancement of, the recognition of indigenous people’s rights and territorial control. Nonetheless, the challenges of consolidating their governing institutions, and of managing their territory according to environmental needs and cultural values, are still significant. One of the greatest challenge is cultural change. There is great concern among the older generation leaders about the shallow political grounding on indigenous values and principles of young Monkoxi leaders. This is resulting in a limited capacity of young people to assume an effective role in the community’s effort to consolidate their territorial autonomy.

Thus, in 2017, the Union of Indigenous Peoples of Lomerío (CICOL, for its name in Spanish), Nur University in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and the University of East Anglia in United Kingdom, initiated an action-research project in Lomerio, as part of the ACKNOW_EJ Project, to help strengthen the leadership capabilities of young Monkoxi. This has entailed a capacity building process with a focus on incentivizing a dialogue between current indigenous leaders and young ones about the history of the struggle of the Monkoxi for territorial autonomy, their successes, and their challenges.

This process, designed by two representatives of the CICOL – Anacleto Peña y Elmar Masay – and researchers from ACKNOWL-EJ, was comprised of 5 sessions or modules, each analyzing a different issue:

Module 1: The history of Lomerío.

Module 2: Platforms of struggle for achieving autonomy: successes and limitations.

Module 3: Indigenous leadership and values.

Module 4: Experiences of indigenous leaders in public administration.

Module 5: Long-term visions of indigenous territorial autonomy.

Each module was developed over the course of two days between March 2017 and April 2018 and took place in different communities of Lomerio. The following sections discuss each of the modules in more detail.

1. Remembering the history of Lomerio

This module was designed as an oral history workshop. CICOL’s council of elders led the process. Elders acted as storytellers, narrating the historical processes lived by the Monkoxi and locating their experiences vis-á-vis the chronological time-frame of Bolivia’s national history. As a result, they embarked on a historical journey that spanned from the time in which the communities’ ancestors escaped from Jesuit missions in the 17th century and after which they found refuge in Lomerio, to the achievement of their freedom from slavery, a process that reached its climax in the community of Salinas in the mid 20th century. The main audience of this module were the potential young leaders of Lomerio’s communities.

History of Lomerio (Peña et al. 2016), a book written by members of CICOL in 2016 as part of a collaborative research project between CICOL, Nur University, and the University of East Anglia. The photo was taken in a meeting in San Lorenzo during which the material was shared with young Monkox people. Photo taken during in San Lorenzo, 2017.

2. The struggle for territorial autonomy: successes and limitations

This module took place in the community of San Lorenzo. It involved the participation of CICOL’s historical leaders, the council of elders, authorities representing the territory and different communities of Lomerio, and young Monkoxi interested in assuming leadership roles. Through a methodology that entailed analyzing processes of change and power relations, the module sought to incentivize an analysis of the different strategies that the Monkoxi have been used to achieve territorial autonomy. The dialogue resulted in the collective analysis of the victories and losses of their collective struggle during the last 40 years. These insights were key in starting a conversation about possible future scenarios of their autonomy.

San Lorenzo, Lomerio, April 2017. Maria Chore, former autonomy leader in CICOL, sharing the results of the analysis of the strategies used in their struggle for the recognition of their territorial indigenous autonomy by the Bolivian state.

3. Characteristics of indigenous leadership

This module on leadership took place in the community of Salinas. It involved the exchange of experiences and views of leadership between former community leaders, members of the council of elders and an external person – the Chancellor of Nur University, William Shoaie. The participation of the Chancellor of Nur University sparked intense interest from young people, professors and parents, not only from the community of Salinas, but from surrounding communities as well, since the University is one of the most important in Bolivia training young people at a professional and postgraduate level on leadership capabilities.

Salinas, Lomerio, 2017. Encounter of elders, former leaders, and young people for exchanging knowledge on the meaning of good leadership.

Salinas, Lomerio, 2017. Work isn’t everything. Dances are also part of the process of strengthening identity.

4. Experiences from indigenous leaders in public administration

One of the imperatives for the Monkox Nation is developing the necessary capabilities to effectively manage and control their territory in an autonomous way from the government. As there are several Monkox people with experience in local and/or national government, this session invited them to share their experiences with young people and families from the community of Fatima and its surroundings. Those participating were: a former local Monkoxi mayor, a former Monkoxi member of the constitutional assembly, and various former national government officials, who shared, during the course of these two days, how their experiences working in government can inform the Monkox autonomy struggle.

5. Long term visions of indigenous territorial autonomy

The last session reflected on possible future challenges of territorial autonomy in Lomerio. This was carried out through a one-day future visioning workshop between the CICOL and five of its partner institutions. The workshop took place in the community of San Antonio, with the aid of ‘Three Horizons’ methodology (Sharpe, 2013). The results of this dialogue serves as the basis for further collaborative work seeking to strengthen the Monkoxi autonomy.

El Puquio, 05 de Abril 2018. Meeting with CICOL’s board to explain the ‘Three Horizon’ methodology to visualize future scenarios.

San Antonio de Lomerio, 06 de Abril 2018. Workshop attended by the CICOL and its partner institutions to develop long-term visions of autonomy.

The second part of this session entailed replicating the analysis, with members of the 29 communities that form part of the territory of Lomerio. However, this proved impossible due to current tensions within some of the communities from Lomerio regarding the desired model of territorial autonomy. Parts of Lomerio’s communities prefer retaining the current political-administrative structure – the municipality – while some (e.g. CICOL) would prefer a new model of territorial administration. Overcoming these tensions is still one of the most significant challenges for the advancing the autonomy process of the Monkoxi Nation.

San Antonio de Lomerio, 07 de Abril 2018. Community meeting to discuss different visions of autonomy.

Testimonies of struggle and support for the achievement of territorial autonomy

In addition to the training process detailed above, the project also included the collection of the testimonies of indigenous leaders with the objective of increasing the visibility of their struggle for autonomy. A total of 19 videos were filmed in which Monkoxi indigenous people narrate their experiences and learning outcomes during this process. Here you can watch the testimony of the former member of the constitutional assembly Nelyda Faldín.

Moreover, the project supported local efforts seeking to build connections relevant to raising and advancing Lomerio’s struggle for autonomy with government ministries. It supported, thus, the collection of testimonies from officials from government and multilateral organizations – such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Other testimonies include those of: Hugo Siles, former Minister of Autonomy; Gonzalo Vargas, current Vice Minister of Autonomy; Reymi Ferreira, former Minister of Defence; and Carlos Camarfo, Bolivia’s representative in the United Nations (UN) and PNUD.

In the following links, you can watch four of these supporting testimonies. These particular testimonies were collected by the General Head of CICOL, Elmar Masay.

Interview of Carlos Camargo, UN-UNDP

Interview of Reymi Ferreira, Minister of Defence of Bolivia

Interview of Hugo Siles, former Minister of Autonomy of Bolivia

Interview of Gonzalo Vargas, Vice Minister of Autonomy of Bolivia

As of now, the fieldwork phase of the action-research project has concluded. We are currently working on the analysis of the information obtained in our documentation of the process and the material produced.

El Puquio, Lomerio, 2015. The text in the photo reads “Live indigenous autonomy”.


Inturias, M., I. Rodriguez, H. Valderomar and A. Peña. (Eds). 2016. Justicia Ambiental y Autonomía Indígena de Base Territorial en Bolivia. Un diálogo político desde el Pueblo Monkox de Lomerío. University of East Anglia, Universidad Nur, Grupo Confluencias and Ministerio de Autonomía, Bolivia. Available at: https://www.uea.ac.uk/documents/18634712/20350354/LIBRO+LOMERIO+2DA+EDICIO%CC%81N+DIGITAL+FINAL.pdf/c9516012-f562-7993-4c3c-b058e1e65bd1

Peña, A., P. Tubari, L. Chuve, M. Chore and C. Ipi. 2016. Historia de Lomerío. El camino hacia la libertad. Universidad de East Anglia, Universida NUR, CICOL. Bolivia, Julio 2016. Available at: https://www.uea.ac.uk/documents/6347571/6469684/Libro+Historia+de+Lomerio.pdf/76552960-9ca1-4f79-a7bf-c81f6ca3e5c0

Sharpe, B. (2013) Three horizons. The Patterning of Hope. Triarchy Press. Devon, UK