Alternative Tourist Attractions: Bolivia

16/01/2013 | Posted in: Culture

If you ever get a chance to visit Bolivia and its gloriously chaotic capital La Paz, there’s a modest wee memorial that you should make time to see. In the orderly, European-style square outside the Presidential Palace and Parliament (since Morales’ election, that has an enormous Aymara flag outside it).

On first glance it looks like any other bust you could see of an ex-president or military figure. Then on second glance, why is the lampost behind him also fenced off as part of the memorial?

It’s a memorial to Bolivia’s President / Dictator Gualberto Villaroel. In power for just 3 years (after a coup, obv.) during which time he executed the leaders of the Marxist Left Revolutionary Party by throwing them off a cliff. Despite early populist moves towards land reform and legalisation of trade unions, the people turned against him:

On July 21, 1946, anti-government crowds took control of the Plaza Murillo, where the Palace of Government … is located, essentially laying siege to it.

From within the Palace, Villarroel announced his resignation, but the enraged hordes of teachers, students and marketplace women still seized arms from the arsenal and broke into the Quemado after an hour of fighting, assassinating the President and various of his aides. Villarroel’s body was tossed from a balcony toward the square, where the crowds proceeded to hang it from a lamp-post opposite the Palace.

Yep. That lampost there.

Hanging dictators from lamposts is a noble tradition across the world, but a place that recognises that in its official memorial to a dead president? That’s a city with style. <3 Bolivia

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