The Republic of Bolivia Until 1952

By | March 22, 2021

Simón Bolivar

Simón Bolivar

Antonio José de Sucre

Antonio José de Sucre

Andrés de Santa Cruz

Andrés de Santa Cruz

On August 6, 1825, the representatives of the high Peruvian provinces met in a constituent assembly and declared the independence of their territory and the establishment of the Republic of Bolivia. It should not be overlooked, however, that only a fraction of the population has actually become “independent”, namely the Criollos, the descendants of the Spaniards born in South America. They had developed an identity that was separated from the “motherland” Spain, which was interspersed with Indian elements, but was culturally strongly oriented towards Europe. For more than a hundred years, however, the majority of the indigenous population was displaced, oppressed and kept in dependence and serfdom.

Marshal Andrés de Santa Cruz managed to consolidate the Bolivian Republic by creating modern structures. During his reign (1829-1839) a constitution and other central laws were passed, the first bank and universities were founded, and an army was built up. But it wasn’t until 1867 that the first banknotes were put into circulation. The overriding of Santa Cruz, the establishment of a new republic encompassing Peru and Bolivia, however, proved to be unfeasible.

The first decades of the new Republic of Bolivia turned out to be very unstable. Political developments were shaped by de facto regimes. As a country located in South America according to themeparktour, Bolivia has seen a total of 193 coups between independence in 1825 and 1981. In addition, Bolivia’s independence was constantly threatened by other powers in the neighborhood that were also in the process of consolidation, such as Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

One of the most outstanding events of the 19th century for the Republic of Bolivia is the “saltpeter war” with Chile from 1879-83, during which Bolivia had to cede its desert coastline to Chile and lost its access to the Pacific. Significantly, the war in Bolivia is called “Guerra del Pacífico”, or “Pacific War”. This national trauma of losing access to the sea has not yet been overcome and unites the country beyond all ideological borders. The “Sea Day” is celebrated nationwide on March 23rd. Regaining access to the sea is still a declared goal of foreign policy and in 2016 Bolivia achieved an important milestone at the International Court of Justice in The Hague,declared responsibility for the call through Bolivia. The claim to sea access was ultimately rejected.

At the end of the 19th century a civil war broke out between the traditional elites from Sucre, associated with the silver mining in Potosí, and the emerging bourgeoisie of La Paz, who were close to tin mining in the highlands and who increasingly pursued their own commercial interests. La Paz emerged victorious from this bloody conflict, not least thanks to the support of the Indian highland population. As a result, the seat of government was moved to La Paz, but Sucre retained the status of the country’s capital and is still the seat of the Supreme Court.

Another armed conflict, the Chaco War against Paraguay from 1932-35, ended with a bitter defeat and renewed territorial losses for Bolivia. The tragedy of the defeat in the war (the majority of the dead had starved or thirsted, but not died as a result of enemy action) led a number of disaffected combatants to step up their efforts to modernize the country and develop a Bolivian nation. The development towards the National Revolution of 1952 must be seen against this background.

Germans in Bolivia

In the second half of the 19th century, German immigrants began to settle in different regions of Bolivia. In addition to missionaries, a number of German merchants and industrialists, as well as their employees and employees, came. In La Paz in particular, a small “German community” was formed more than 100 years ago. From this group, some of whom were quite influential, the first “German” institutions in Bolivia emerged, such as the German Club (Club Alemán) in La Paz (1881) and the German Cultural Center (Centro Cultural Alemán), which was established in 1941 as an aid association for those in need German was founded. Two years later, the German Chamber of Commerce and the German Schools in La Paz were added, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz in the 20’s of the last century. Several hundred German immigrants came into the country every year up until World War II.

During the Second World War there was initially an influx of Jewish refugees. In the time after the end of the war, Bolivia offered a new home to Nazis who were in hiding. The most famous of them was the prominent SS man and Gestapo chief of Lyon, Klaus Barbie. For decades he lived undisturbed with a new identity as Klaus Altmann in Bolivia and was there at times as a military advisor in the government’s service. Only in 1983 – after democracy had been regained in Bolivia – was he arrested and extradited to France, where he died in custody in 1991.

Two interesting books about German immigration have appeared in the last few years. This is initially 2015 “Off to America!”. German immigration to Bolivia ”by Claudia Maennling. Published in cooperation with the German Embassy in La Paz, the book has set itself the task of reporting on the stories of German-born settlers and how they contributed to the development in their new homeland, Bolivia. In May 2018, “ Transnational Search for Traces in the Andes. From refugee Jews, “old Germans” and Nazis in Bolivia“By Juliana Ströbele-Gregor. The author got to know people from both immigrant groups and in her book deals with the life worlds of those who fled to the Andes for completely different reasons and their mutual relationships.