Evo Morales Ayma

President Evo Morales was born in Bolivia on October 26, 1959, in a poor and forgotten community in the Bolivian Altiplano (high plain) called Isallavi, which is part of the Orinoca parish near Lake Poopó in Oruro.

President Morales descends from an Aymara family, an indigenous nation that has as its fundamental principles “Ama shua, ama llulla, ama quella”, which translated means “Don't lie, don't steal and don't be lazy.” President Morales worked in agriculture since childhood and was responsible for the care of a herd of llamas. He put himself through high school working as a bricklayer, baker, and trumpet player. He also proved to be a very gifted soccer player. President Morales attended Beltrán Avila High School, although he feels his most essential education has come from the “university of life.”

In 1982 the Bolivian Altiplano was faced with the worst drought in its history forcing thousands of families, including the Morales Ayma family, to leave their homes and communities. Many migrated to the tropics of Cochabamba (Chapare), located in the eastern Bolivian lowlands. Morales soon joined a local union of coca growers. In 1983 his union made him head of the local soccer organization. From this first post in the labor union, he quickly ascended the ranks occupying various posts. In 1985 he was elected General Secretary of the Tropics Federation. In 1996 Morales was made president of the Coordinating Committee of the Six Federations of the Tropics of Cochabamba. In 1997 he was elected to Congress – in a landslide victory – representing the 27th district of Chapare.  In January 2002, however, the neo-liberal parties expelled him from the National Congress.

In the elections of June 2002, the Movement Towards Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo, known by its acronym MAS, meaning “more” in Spanish), led by President Morales, rejected the traditional political parties of Bolivia, getting 581,884 votes and electing 36 members to the National Congress. Since the municipal elections in December 2004, MAS has become the leading political force of Bolivia. Opponents of President Morales accused him not only of being a terrorist, but also of being a member of a guerilla group and a drug-trafficker. Despite this visceral smear campaign, Evo Morales surpassed all political projections by winning 53.7% of the popular vote of Bolivia on December 18, 2005, becoming the country’s first indigenous President.

Source: University Programs and Events Planning Resources, November 2008