Romancing the Road: The Villa Tunari - San Ignacio de Moxos Highway
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The 306 kilometer Villa Tunari - San Ignacio de Moxos highway project was designed in 2008 as part of an interoceanic corridor to foster greater integration of the capitalist economy in South America. Despite its double status as a protected ecological and Indigenous Territory, this highway was designed to cut through the center of the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS). Construction began in 2011. The response was immediate; marches and protests were held both against and for the highway. Construction was then put on hold as consultations were held with communities who live within the borders of TIPNIS. Despite the existence of numerous documents regarding the rights of Indigenous Peoples, their operationalization has been deeply problematic. The TIPNIS highway project received wide spread international attention when members of the Eighth Indigenous March in Defense of TIPNIS were attacked and detained by police in September of 2011. This thesis will illustrate that this was not an isolated phenomenon. Rather this, and subsequent events, are deeply embedded within the colonial framework in which they are taking place. By highlighting the larger power structures that exist, as well as the strength and courage of Indigenous Lowlanders and those who stand in solidarity with them, questions such as, ‘Why is this highway project so contentious?’, become clearer.