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Throughout Latin America public discourse and political programs dealing with gender and ethnicity have focused mainly on women and indigenous people, often in paternalistic efforts to help these "marginal groups." Bolivian constitutional reforms implemented between 1993 and 1997 challenge this traditional stance by promoting balanced participation in a nation constituted by multiple identities, yet ongoing processes triggered by these reforms testify to the tradition's stubborn endurance. In this article we ask what prevents institutions working in Bolivia from applying anthropological notions of gender and ethnicity as dynamic and interlocking cultural systems, and we question the distancing and antagonism that exists between those working with ethnicity- and those working with gender. Efforts to clarify these phenomena focus on the lack of articulation between ethnographic observations, political philosophies and development policies.