by Nicole, 7/1/08 • After a not-so-restful week in Sucre, we are back to work in La Paz/El Alto! James Lerager, a documentary photographer from California, joined us at Mujeres Creando on Sunday. In addition to writing an academic article based on our research, we will be doing portraits of several women leaders in El Alto (and Quito) for a web photo essay online (www.webphotoessay.com).
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 their Equal Footing blog.
Out of the many women we’ve already interviewed, we chose five to be the subject of our (written and photographed) portraits. James will be taking the pictures for the portraits, as well as photograph other people we interview this week and El Alto/La Paz. We will make copies of the best photographs of each individual in order to give to our interviewees as presents.
Yesterday (Monday) and today were filled with more interviews and tales of revolution and discrimination. We interviewed one woman from the Colectivo de Mujeres who is president of her community in El Alto, which was formed by illegal land invasions (meaning that people built houses on land although they didn’t own the titles to said land). Over an 18 year period, this woman negotiated the price of the land title from US $15,000 (completely impossible for everyone) to US$300! Incredible. She also regailed us with tales of the trench warfare she planned against state soldiers taking natural gas away from El Alto in 2003 (the lead up to the mobilizations of October 2003).
Today, we interviewed a man who is the representative of an organization for ex-prisoners and people who were exiled during Banzer’s dictatorship in Bolivia in the 1970s. He, along with the other members of his organization, was tortured and imprisoned (this man because he was active in a campesino union that wanted to form an indigenous government in Bolivia). After a fascinating interview in the back room of a building, we realized that everyone else in the building had left for lunch and we were locked in without a key! Because lunch here lasts 2.5 hours, we were going to be locked in for the next 2 hours. Luckily, another man from the ex-prisoners and exiles organization shimmied out of the second story window, hopped onto a staircase, and got the doorman to release us, just as Paul and I were also about to escape through the window.
We did an interview with a woman who is the president of her neighborhood and an executive leader of El Alto’s neighborhood association, the FEJUVE (a very, very powerful group here). She said what all the other female leaders have said–that the male leaders don’t pay attention to the women, don’t let them speak at meetings, purposefully hold meetings in places like bars so women can’t attend. Women are openly made fun of and told to be quiet when they try to voice opinions. The discrimination these women face is fierce, but they continue to work in order to better their neighborhoods and organizations.
Mujeres Creando is having a party right now in order to celebrate the one year anniversary of their radio station, Radio Deseo (Radio Desire), which is based in the same building as our hostel. It sounds very boisterous. The anarchist-feminists know how to party!
From the blustery streets of La Paz,