All posts by Daniel Goldstein

Daniel M. Goldstein is Professor and Graduate Program Director in Anthropology at Rutgers University.

2016 U.S. Presidential Election: Views from Bolivia

Daniel M. Goldstein

I have known the Aliaga family for 24 years, since I first arrived in Bolivia to study Quechua in 1992. My wife and I were living with a Bolivian family, headed by the widow of a lawyer who had once been business partners with a man named Gunther. Gunther was a Holocaust survivor then living in Cochabamba. On learning that we were Jewish – a rarity in Bolivia – the widow exclaimed, “I know someone Jewish!” and put us in touch with Gunther. On meeting us, Gunther exclaimed, “I know someone young!” – not so unusual, except among Gunther’s acquaintances – and he put us in touch with the Aliagas. We’ve been friends ever since.

I was interested to learn more about Bolivians’ perceptions of the U.S. Presidential campaign through which we are now living, a campaign that many observers have described as among the most bizarre and revolting they have ever witnessed. Recently, Raúl Rodriguez Arancibia (a Bolivian studying in the U.S.) and I wrote a piece on this blog exploring Raúl’s feelings about the Trump campaign in light of Bolivian political experience. For this follow-up piece, I wanted to change directions, to understand the perspectives on this election of some Bolivians and Bolivian-Americans living in Bolivia. And so I wrote to the Aliagas to ask for their insights. (For a perspective from Kenya, see Angelique Haugerud’s Savage Minds post, “Is This What Democracy Looks Like?”)

Anna Aliaga is a U.S. citizen, born and raised in Grass Valley, California. She met and fell in love with Carlos, and the two of them settled in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba to raise a family. Anna founded and runs a business producing and exporting artisanal knitwear and leather goods; Carlos is an intellectual, artist, author, and musician. Their two sons, Eduardo and Elahdio, are now grown: Eduardo graduated from Stanford University in 2013 and is working in Austin, Texas, and Elahdio recently graduated from Santa Clara University in California and returned to Bolivia. I asked them to write a bit about their perspectives on the current electoral campaign.

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Trump: A Bolivian’s Perspective

[Savage Minds welcomes guest bloggers Daniel M. Goldstein and Raúl Rodriguez Arancibia]

In the Andes last summer, while traveling to visit family and friends prior to beginning his studies in anthropology at Rutgers University, Raúl Rodriguez Arancibia took a long-distance bus ride on which they were showing the 2015 film “Our Brand is Crisis.” (Most Bolivian buses have mounted screens at the front on which they show movies throughout the ride). The movie is a political satire based on the 2005 documentary of the same name, which recounts the role of American political campaign professionals working as consultants in a Bolivian presidential election. The film depicts the Bolivians as dolts, their primitive innocence contrasted with the wisdom and sophistication of the Americans. What might it look like, Raúl wondered, if the roles were reversed, and the camera turned on U.S. politicians? What might a Bolivian insider’s view of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign reveal?

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