This article offers a reading of the ideas expressed in Walter Solón Romero Gonzales’ mural, the ‘History of Bolivian Petroleum’ from 1956, and juxtaposes these ideas to the current public discourse that emerges from speeches of high officials and from policy documents of President Evo Morales’ government. The objective is to investigate the understanding of the role natural resources vis-à-vis development in Bolivia at these two points in time and show the striking resonance between ideas depicted in the mural more than half a century ago and ideas expressed in contemporary official discourses. These ideas concern the foundational elements of a development model that envisions a central role for natural resources, and especially hydrocarbons, in the development of the country. The elements of this model, that include a prominent role of the state in the extraction of natural resources, expansive social policies, strategies to diversify the economy, neatly overlap with the central tenets of the neoextractivist model. It transpires that the novelty of neoextractivism can be fundamentally questioned. This model also provides the rationale justifying the promotion of extractive activities ‘at all costs’ in Bolivia and beyond. However, history has shown that it produces fantasies of development rather than actual development.

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International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Pellegrini, L. (2018). Imaginaries of development through extraction. Geoforum, 90, 130–141. Retrieved from