Referred to by its inhabitants as “La Llacta”, the Quechua equivalent of the Spanish word pueblo, meaning at once city and people or nation, Cochabamba is the centre of a vigorous regional identity, and throughout Bolivian history has enjoyed a reputation for political independence and rebelliousness, a tradition that continues to this day. In 2000 the city’s water system was privatized and sold to a consortium of international companies which immediately doubled or even tripled water rates. In response, Cochabamba erupted in a series of spontaneous protests that became known as La Guerra del Agua – “the Water War”. Thousands of citizens from all social classes took to the streets to demand rates be lowered, blocking roads in and out of the city. The Banzer government responded in familiar fashion: a state of siege was declared, protest organizers were arrested, armed troops were sent in and plainclothes snipers opened fire on protesters, killing one and injuring many others. Despite this oppression, the demonstrations continued, and the water consortium eventually backed down – a popular victory that was welcomed by anti-globalization campaigners around the world. The excellent 2010 film Tambien la lluvia (“Even the Rain”), starring Gael Garcia Bernal, is set during the Water War.

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