Pablo and Nicole • Bolivia, 6/13/08 • Our first day of fieldwork in El Alto (Thursday) was fantastic. I feel like we made 8 days of progress in 8 hours.
This blog is written as its authors work on a new research project titled “Women on the Frontlines: Resource Battles, Popular Movements, and Gender Dynamics in Bolivia and Ecuador.” An Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) grant for innovative faculty-student collaboration supports Paul Dosh and Nicole Kligerman in an effort to craft a new model of faculty-student “complementary collaboration.” One way that they share their efforts is through a blog titled “Equal Footing: Collaboration at 13,000 Feet” (equalfooting.blogspot.com). This post is taken from the Equal Footing blog, with Paul’s writing in italics and Nicole’s in regular typeface.
I´m used to things going (relatively) smoothly in Lima and Quito, where I´ve worked for years, but Bolivia is a new country for me, except for a couple weeks of exploratory research Cesar and I did in 2007, and that was mostly in Cochabamba. El Alto is a whole new city for all three of us. Yet in just 8 hours, 4 buses, 1 flat tire, 1 taxi, 10 kilometers of walking, and 2 lunches (I ate both, as Nicole and Cesar´s stomachs were on some kind of hunger strike), we learned how to navigate a new city, got to know 4 different zones of El Alto, re-framed and re-focused the scope and intersection of the academic and civic engagement components of our project, and amassed a glittering treasure trove of contacts among social movement, popular organizations, NGOs, and City Hall. It was glorious. So glorious that Cesar and Nicole fell fast asleep at 5:30 pm, about 3 mintues after we got back to our hostel.
The air in El Alto is thinner, colder, more polluted. As our little bus wound up the Andes on route to El Alto (about a 17 minute ride from La Paz), my ears popped in time with the bus attendent shouting the destination of the bus at rapid-fire speed out the window (Lacejalacejalaperezlaperezlaceja). In El Alto, the Andes poke out from behind the buildings, snow peaked and looming, reminding me that at 13,000 feet it´s normal for my heart to be continually beating so quickly.
We had a very succesful day of interviews in El Alto, using information gleaned from various conversations yesterday. We went to the headquarters of an organization called Gregaria Apaza, which works to promote the empowerment of women and families in El Alto. They work with NGOs throughout all of Bolivia, have a radio station called Radio Pachamama, have legal services, clinics for victims of abuse, have job training clinics, and much more. We spoke with two women who work in a sector of Gregoria Apaza called Accion Ciudadana (Citizen Action), promoting women in popular organizations and social movements. The conversations were very helpful in understanding important organizations in El Alto, how they function, who is involved, what are problematic components, etc. Not only was the information really interesting and helpful as we begin to focus our studies, but they were also my first field interviews!
Back in La Paz, we interviewed a city councilwoman who said she will put us in contact with politically active women- and then went out for pizza.
And we are going to move residences! Until now, we have lived in what Paul dubbed the ¨Gringo Ghetto¨- filled with hipster tourists with expensive gear, an atmosphere that is beginning to be quite oppressive for all of us. Tomorrow we´re moving to a hostel located in the headquarters of an organization called Mujeres Creando (Women Creating), an anarcha-feminist group that tries to radically smash patriarchy. It should be a very interesting, and welcome, change. http://www.mujerescreando.org/
I welcome you to also smash patriarchy,