What is a summary of From the Mines to the Streets: A Bolivian Activist’s Life by Benjamin Kohl and Linda C. Farthing?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In From the Mines to the Streets, authors Benjamin Kohl and Linda C. Farthing jointly translated Felix Muruchi Poma's autobiography titled Minero con poder de dinamita, published in 2009. In From the Mines, Kohl and Farthing detail the life of Muruchi, a social activist in Bolivia during the time of military dictatorship, while also providing historical accounts of the social, economic, and political atmosphere of Bolivia during this time period. Themes in From the Mines include struggles among classes, the importance of ethnic identity, and gender roles in Bolivia.

Muruchi, of indigenous Andean descent, was born in the village of Wila Apacheta in the department of Oruro. When Muruchi was born in 1946, as he phrases it, "a kind of slavery" existed in which landowning Spanish families ruled over the indigenous people. As Muruchi further phrases it, "[The] indigenous people were not allowed to walk freely in the plazas of the cities nor contract their labor independently" (Ch. 1). At the age of 6 or 7, Muruchi helped his family pasture sheep, and during this time, the 1952 Revolution broke out, securing citizenship, suffrage, freedom of mobilization, and education for the indigenous people. At the age of 18, in 1964, Muruchi began his compulsory military service. He recounts standing sentry outside the meeting in which commanders planned the coup d'etat that began 18 years of military dictatorial rule over Bolivia.

Soon, Muruchi joined the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (PCML), which formed a resistance against the dictatorship. As a member of the PCML and a miner, Muruchi was a victim of the September Massacre of 1965 in which the military occupied the Catavi-Siglo XX mines, killing miners and their families. During this time Muruchi was wounded by a grenade. By 1970, he led a triumphant attack on the police barracks in Uncla and captured their weapons. He also became a labor leader and began making covert trips into Chile to meet with other labor leaders. Though he was imprisoned for a time, he was released and exiled to Chile in 1976 and eventually taken in by the Dutch as a refugee.

By 1981, Bolivia's military government was brought down. By 1982, the Confederation of Bolivian Private Entrepreneurs, the Bolivian Workers Confederation, and the Catholic Church all pushed for the restoration of the democratic government in Bolivia, leading to the election of President Hernán Siles Zuazo. By 1987, Muruchi returned to Bolivia and took residence in El Alto. In 1993, he won the office of the congressional deputy with the Free Bolivia Movement. He also actively fought for the establishment of a university and, by 2009, graduated as an attorney.