by Nicole • Bolivia, 6/24/08 • Greetings from Sucre, Bolivia!
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.
But first, to back up a few days. On Friday night, Cesar and I went with group of 40 people to celebrate the Aymara (the largest indigenous group in Bolivia) New Year, leaving La Paz at 10pm and arriving in a very isolated village in the Bolivian altiplano (high flatlands) about 3 hours away at 2am. We arrived in the village and the sky was huge above us, an open expanse with very, very chilly winds making me glad I was wearing three pairs of wool socks. From 2am to 7am we took part in the rituals for the Aymara New Year, which consist of chewing coca leaves and making wishes on small figurines and coca leaves. Males and females were divided, and put our wishes into separate offerings that were then bundled up.
At 7am, we left the school room (one of the only cement structures in the community) and walked out onto the Bolivian altiplano. It was beautiful, almsot like a magical or surreal movie with muted colors that made the outlines of the buildings almost shimmer. We walked 20 minutes down a dirt road, past herds of llama and mud and grass houses until we reached a large clearing filled with hundreds of Aymara people huddled around bonfires made of the offerings with wishes we (and they) had made before. Then as the sun came over the mountains for the first time, everyone through their hands in the year and shouted “jallalla!” which more or less means “may it live” in Aymara. It was an extremely powerful experience.
Cesar and I came back to La Paz, having slept 6 of the past 70 hours.
On Sunday morning, Cesar left for Lima and Paul and I left for a 19 hour journey to Sucre. Despite my memory foam travel pillow, it was a pretty painful journey. Here in Sucre, we´ve taken two days off from work and are walking around this pretty, colonial city. It´s very different from La Paz, including politically: there is lots of graffiti on the walls that states “Evo Asesino” and “Sucre de pie, campesinos de rodilla” (basically meaning that Sucre will squash/kill Bolivian campesinos). It´s intense, and probably best that Paul and I don´t mention our politics. There is graffiti in La Paz that says “Sucre, the capital of racism” (because Sucre wants to be Bolivia´s capital again) and I think that statement is not entirely untrue.
The conference of women leaders from all over Bolivia begins tomorrow here in Sucre, and I´m excited to go. A lot of it will probably be in Quechua, but will be very interesting none the less. We will know a few of the women there from our work in El Alto/La Paz so it will be good to have some friends.
From the colonial walls of Sucre,