Newly re-elected indigenous leader continues to chip away at vestiges of European colonialism with home improvement.
Published by Anadolu Agency Nov 3
The government of Evo Morales will build a new presidential palace in La Paz to be known as “The Great House of the People,” inspired by architecture of the Tiahuanaco civilization of pre-Hispanic Bolivia.
Indigenous symbols will replace the colonial style of the current site (pictured), built in 1551.
“We don’t need a palace for the upper echelons, we are a people, we are brothers, and so we have decided to build the Great House of the People,” Morales said during a ceremony announcing the plans last week, the EFE news agency reported.
The new palace will be erected behind the current site in Plaza Murillo, the country’s political epicenter.
“It’s one of the first colonial buildings in La Paz,” said Rafael Loayza, head of the journalism program at Bolivia’s Catholic University.
“A new government palace was needed and of course Evo Morales should build something symbolic.”
Morales who is an Aymara Indian and former coca-leaf grower, became the country’s first indigenous leader in 2006. He won a third consecutive term in a landslide victory in October. If he completes the five-year term, it would make him the country’s longest-serving president.
Morales has pursued an “indigenous colonization” policy in the renamed “Plurinational state of Bolivia” which seeks to overturn centuries of exclusion and under representation of its majority indigenous population.
Government spokesman Joan Roman Quintana said it was a symbol of the “process of change” where the old palace had connotations of “exclusion and marginalization.”
The new building will have 29 floors, a heliport and a 1,000-seat auditorium.
Reports say it may include a room to honor the history of the coca leaf, an important crop in Andean society.
It is expected that the palace will be completed by January 2016 at a cost of 252 million bolivianos ($36 million).
The current building is known as the “Burned Palace” after revolts in 1875 – common in Bolivia’s tumultuous political history – set it on fire in 1875. It will be converted to a museum.
The government has also discussed renaming La Paz’s main square where the presidential palace and Congress now sit.
Plaza Murillo is named after Diego Murillo, who led a revolution resulting in Bolivia’s independence in 1825. Some have suggested changing the name to 19th century indigenous leader Bartolina Sisa.
Loayza, the journalism professor, added that there was firm opposition to the idea in La Paz, a city whose population is 66 percent non-indigenous, and was unlikely to prosper.