“Originally, Riberalta Was Called Xëbiya and It Was Ruled by Mawa Maxokiri…” Urban Imaginaries and Urban Migration Among the Chacobo (Beni, Bolivia)
in F. Santos-Granero et E. Fabiano (éd.), Urban Imaginaries in Native Amazonia Tales of Alterity, Power, and Defiance
This chapter is about Chacobo people's experience of urban settings. The introduction sets out the facts regarding increased mobility and interconnectedness between town and village following the rapid expansion of the Bolivian road network, and then moves on to discuss three aspects of Chacobo urban experiences. First, comes a long historical section about Chacobo people and urban settings throughout the centuries, which shows that Chacobo people have enduring and deep relations to urban centers, and therefore that the current context of urbanization is not particularly new or unfamiliar to them. The second section describes some of the harsh realities presented by urban life, including the difficulties of finding lodging, employment (beyond the sector of labor in indigenous representation), and sustenance. Chacobo people endure these conditions not because they enjoy the experience of urban life, but because they hope these visits will lead to well-being in the future. It offers a careful and detailed ethnographic examination of the gritty, day-to-day experience of life in Amazonian urban centers. The last section describes how Chacobo people consider the region's towns to be built on their land, and thus that "even though dispossessed, the Chacobo are clearly entitled to feel “at home” anywhere in the region." The concluding section describes how Chacobo people are bringing the aesthetics and amenities of urban centers into their villages as a way of "urbanizing the forest.