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Landscape of MigrationMobility and Environmental Change on Bolivia's Tropical Frontier, 1952 to the Present$
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Ben Nobbs-Thiessen

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469656106

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469656106.001.0001

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Military Bases and Rubber Tires

Military Bases and Rubber Tires

Okinawans and Mennonites at the Margins of Nation, Revolution, and Empire, 1952–1968

(p.65) Chapter Two Military Bases and Rubber Tires
Landscape of Migration

Ben Nobbs-Thiessen

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter explores the transnational undercurrents of Bolivia’s national revolution. It weaves together the geopolitical and environmental forces that led the Okinawans and Mennonites to Santa Cruz. In postwar Okinawa, the U.S. military displaced farmers as it constructed bases on expropriated lands across the Ryukyuan archipelago. From political protests and blockades to performances of model agrarian citizenship, Okinawans contested removal and several thousand were eventually relocated to Bolivia. There Okinawans employed the same strategy of model agrarian citizenship they had used to contest U.S. removal on the Ryukyuan islands to successfully counter xenophobia in Santa Cruz. The second half of this chapter begins with the small-scale migration of Paraguayan Mennonites to Bolivia in the mid-1950s before turning to Mexico where a prolonged midcentury drought was devastating farming communities in Chihuahua. In the face of drought many Mexican Mennonites initially traveled north to work as laborers on Canadian farms. Returning to Mexico, these braceros brought modern goods and evangelical missionaries back to their traditional colonies. The result was a bitter conflict that centered on the use of rubber tires, rather than steel wheels, on Mennonite tractors and pushed forward an exodus of conservative Mennonites to Bolivia in 1968.

Keywords:   Mexico, Mennonite, Santa Cruz, Okinawa, Displacement, Drought, Diaspora, Agrarian citizenship, Xenophobia

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