For the first time in history the new Bolivian Ambassador to Ecuador is an indigenous woman, Rusena Maribel Santamaria Mamani, a former leader of a women’s agricultural union.
Santamaria was sworn in on Friday, February 8, by Foreign Minister David Choquehunaca in the city of La Paz. For the ceremony Santamaria was dressed in a typical indigenous polera skirt, with a poncho made of vicuna wool, the traditional dress of indigenous women of the high plains of Bolivia.
“A sister of ours is the first Aymara that is representing us beyond our borders,” said Choquehanca, (who is also Aymara) at the ceremony. “This sister not only has to think of the Bartolinas, in the Tupac Katari Federation, she has to think of all Bolivians, she is the ambassador for all Bolivians.”
Santamaria is an agronomist, a 41-year old mother of two children and she was the leader of the Bartolina Sisa Departmental Federation of Indigenous Rural Women, a union syndicate allied with President Evo Morales (also of the Aymara ethnicity).
In her remarks, Santamaria spoke briefly about her experience in the Bartolina Sisa federation.
“We, the women of Bolivia, are organized. The work always has been with our sisters in the countryside and in the city and that has been demonstrated through different struggles, because of this President Evo Morales has given us the confidence to continue with the struggle,” Santamaria asserted.
She had worked for the Federation for 10 years. The Federation that represents indigenous women was named for Bartolina Sisa, an Aymara woman warrior of the 18th century who, along with her husband Tupac Katari, helped lead a revolt against Spanish colonial authorities in 1781.
“Now, I have been called to serve in an important function with responsibility in a brother country as Ambassador in the Republic of Ecuador,” Santamaria continued, “an historic moment for both countries which are part of the ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance of America], that are building the regional integration of UNASUR [Union of South American Nations] and now in CELAC [Community of Latin American and Caribbean States].”
The new ambassador was referring to the continued alliance between Bolivia and Ecuador and whose presidents, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa respectively, are seen as close allies of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and that country’s Bolivarian Revolution.
Ambassador Santamaria began her duties in Quito on February 14th.