Category: Bolivia

Microfinance

When I first saw the photos of the sacking of BancoSol, I cried. The slide show began with chaotic pictures of the mob hauling desks, computers and files into the street and setting them on fire. Next were two captured looters lying face down and handcuffed amid the wreckage of what hours before had been a functioning bank branch. Finally, next-day photographs documented the ravaged premises of BansoSol’s branches …

Vivian Fernández: Student Perspective

This year, on August 2, Bolivia will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the founding of the escuela-ayllu of Warisata, an extraordinary intercultural experiment in indigenous schooling that flourished between 1931 and 1940 on the high plateau (altiplano) in the shadows of the volcanic peak of Illampu. On that day, the usual civic rituals and official remembrances—school pageants, TV documentaries, and editorial page …

We Want Public Education!

In July 2010, we asked the President of the Federation of Neighborhood Organizations (FEJUVE) in El Alto, Bolivia, how his organization planned to address seasonal water scarcity there. Our concern was aroused when, in 2007, local and international papers began to warn about the possible effects of rapidly retreating glaciers, changing weather patterns, and continued rural-to-urban migration on the reservoirs supplying …

The Water Is Ours Damn It!

In July 2010, we asked the President of the Federation of Neighborhood Organizations (FEJUVE) in El Alto, Bolivia, how his organization planned to address seasonal water scarcity there. Our concern was aroused when, in 2007, local and international papers began to warn about the possible effects of rapidly retreating glaciers, changing weather patterns, and continued rural-to-urban migration on the reservoirs supplying …

Warisata

This year, on August 2, Bolivia will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the founding of the escuela-ayllu of Warisata, an extraordinary intercultural experiment in indigenous schooling that flourished between 1931 and 1940 on the high plateau (altiplano) in the shadows of the volcanic peak of Illampu. On that day, the usual civic rituals and official remembrances—school pageants, TV documentaries, and editorial page …

Through a Glass Darkly

As the American Airlines flight from Miami neared La Paz, we peered down through the thin light of early morning, trying to make sense of the arid land below us. Were the neat pyramids of stones at the corner of each field the result of clearing the land for planting? If so, it must be rocky, inhospitable soil for growing crops. Were those really herds of llamas and alpacas that dotted the landscape? And how spectacular …

The Revolution in Venezuela: Social and Political Change under Chávez

Much of what is written about Venezuela since the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998 tends to be highly polarized, often based on “Manichaean” perceptions of developments in that country, according to one of the editors of this volume. At the extremes, Chávez is viewed as a social revolutionary dedicated to the service of the downtrodden in Latin America or as dictator who threatens regional democracy and security. …

Reciprocal Agreements for Water

September 21, 1967. A hot wind sweeps tumbleweed through the village of Alto Seco. Women peer from behind drawn shutters, to catch a glimpse of the visitors who arrived earlier in the day. They had walked slowly into the village, carrying immense backpacks. The men made camp in an abandoned house next to a waterhole, and during the evening talked to a group of 15 amazed and silent peasants …

The New Bolivian Education Law

They marched determinedly down Bolivia’s Santa Cruz-Trinidad highway under the hot sun. It was July of 2010, and Bolivia’s most prominent lowland indigenous organization, CIDOB (Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian Oriente) was marching to demand modifications to the new Law of Autonomies (or Self-Determination) and Decentralization, created by Evo Morales’s largely Andean party …

Medical Practices in Bolivia

On the sixth floor of an older building in La Paz is a small office with a modest sign printed on standard computer paper. The dim light in the narrow hallway makes it difficult for me to read the sign. I notice a poster on the door advertising the “Primer Encuentro Nacional de Plantas Medicinales de Bolivia,” the First National Meeting on Bolivian Medicinal Plants, held in December 2010 under the sponsorship of this office. …

Justice to President

A couple of years ago, after visiting Egypt and Tunisia in a mission to promote a greater freedom of speech and better democracy, and then attending the presidential succession in Honduras, I realized that in Bolivia, some years earlier, in 2005, an acute political crisis had been successfully overcome in peace, without violence, and under the Constitution. Not too long ago, change of this kind was typically undertaken by the military …

International Theater Festival

The challenge began at a café in Madrid on a cold morning, when two Spanish colleagues dared me to organize an international theater festival in Bolivia. We were talking about Latin American theater and how little promotion theater was receiving in some Latin American countries. My colleague and friend Luis Molina, director of the CELCIT (Latin American Center of Theater Creation and Research), observed, “You are the …

Human Rights as a Vocation

“With Ana María Romero dies a piece of the history of Bolivia. This woman is who built our democracy.” These words of remembrance by the Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera marked the death of Ana María Romero de Campero on October 25, 2010, at the age of 69, the first woman President of the Senate of the newly formed Bolivian Plurinational Assembly. In the days that followed, his sentiments were echoed ..

The Flowering of Culture in Santa Cruz (English version): Diverse And Mestizo

Strains of baroque music waft from San Javier, one of the many colonial-era Jesuit Missions in the Santa Cruz de la Sierra region. Musicians are practicing for the International Festival of Early Music, which attracts music lovers and tourists from around the world. What might surprise you is that much of this music was composed by Bolivians themselves. When the Catholic Church began restoring Jesuit churches …

Falling into the Rentier Trap

“Why are you so quiet about the paper factory the government’s building in the middle of the rain forest, in Chapare?” I asked an environmental activist who has been making noise about water pollution, forest preservation, garbage treatment and every single environmental issue in Bolivia. “Don’t worry,” he replied, “That plant will never work. It is a state company, remember?” …

Evo Morales Through the Prism of Wikileaks

A century ago, the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia suggested that coca-leaf consumption, a millenarian tradition among indigenous peoples, was the source of Bolivia’s problems. He proposed instead “plain American chewing gum for everyone.” The gum would be donated by U.S. companies and distributed by the embassy. …

Evo Morales

It was 4:45 a.m. in La Paz. Five men gathered at dawn at a lonely bus stop in a residential zone. They were wearing thick jackets to ward off the intense cold of the morning. They seemed nervous. Indeed, they were, because they were going to the presidential house. Four journalists (myself included) and one photographer, all from the Bolivian newspaper Página Siete, were preparing to interview President Evo Morales …

Crash Course on Bolivian Cinema

The most frequently asked question about Bolivian cinema outside the country is probably this: “Bolivian cinema? Huhh?” And, usually, the quick and somewhat angry response to this perplexity is simple: yes, there is such a thing as a ‘Bolivian cinema.’ No, we have never had—and certainly not now—a ‘film industry’ (this is the case with most Latin American countries save the big ones: Mexico, Brazil, maybe Argentina). …

Coca

In October 2003, a tumultuous indigenous and popular uprising brought down the government of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, following a massacre that cut short the lives of 67 people in El Alto and the provinces of La Paz. The so-called “gas war” was one of the climaxes of popular protests that had begun in 2000 with the “water war” of February—April in Cochabamba and the indigenous …

The Big Ditch: How America Took, Built, Ran and Ultimately Gave Away the Panama Canal

It was a question lingering for a century among most Panamanians and many Americans: was the Panama Canal good business for the Americans? There was a military-strategic gain but economically, did the money invested yield a good return as a commercial enterprise and if so, how profitable was it? Harvard Business School professor Noel Maurer and historian Carlos Yu reflect on the economics …

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