(Vintage blog from Nov 03 2006)
So sorry for the delay in updating my blog. Maintaining a blog is so time consuming, it's like another job in itself! Anyway, here are my thoughts...
As of this past weekend I have officially lived in Bolivia for one month! I'm currently writing from another major city called Cochabamba or "Cocha" for short, which is a little bit lower in altitude (over 8,000 ft above sea level compared to the 13,000 ft in La Paz) and much nicer weather. Cochabamba is located in the center of the country and it is where all political points of view meet as well. Although extreme points of view on the Left and the Right exist here, most "Cochabambinos" are Centrists. Here are some photos of the area.
They have a Cristo here overlooking the city just like in Rio de Janiero, but this one is supposedly a few centimeters taller.
Plaza Colón in the center of the city.
This is the street that I'm living on right now. What a cool view everyday.
So after being here for a month what do I make of this country?
Bolivia is a really chaotic place in every sense of the word- everything is thrown at you all at once here from a political, social, and even emotional (person to person) perspective. And once you think that you have a handle on things, something suddenly happens that will make you reconsider your current position- it's super intense.
I arrived in Bolivia during a time of great sadness and turmoil that has added even more pressure onto the Morales Administration (if that's even possible). There were two major violent confrontations that took place.
The first was the killing of two civilians by the military that was ordered by Morales to eradicate coca crops in the area of Los Yungas, which occurred the day of my arrival on Sept. 29th. This area is often overlooked in the coca issue and the residents accuse Evo of bias, because he seems to only want to suggest eradication of coca crops for their region and NOT for El Chapare, which is the major area for coca production in Bolivia and supposedly where the small percentage of coca that does go to the drug trade originates from. In general, the coca produced in both of these regions are mainly used for cultural and medicinal purposes, an important difference is that El Chapare is where Evo happened to have lived most of his life and it's where he created his political career. So is there bias? When the military arrived to begin the eradication process that day, the residents of Los Yungas engaged in the typical Bolivian act of protest, when somehow tempers flared and two civilians were shot dead.
Here are photos of two women from Los Yungas I saw denouncing the killings with a demonstration here in Cocha about two weeks ago.
The yellow banner says "In Defense of Traditional Cultivations Yungas de Vandiola (name of the region) Present!"
This poster says "The goverment wants to legalize the illegal coca of the Six Federations of the tropic region (AKA El Chapare). Killing traditional coca!"
The mishandling of this situation in Los Yungas by the Morales Administration is an example of what is being called careless actions of this government in some places, and it's affecting public support.
The second and more devastating event occurred only six days later farther South in the mining town of Huanuni. Seventeen miners were killed in a bloody battle between the Union Miners (paid by the State) and the "Cooperative" Miners on the very grounds of the tin mine! Think of the Cooperative like freelancers- they are hired by private mining companies without benefits and are paid by how much product they produce. It's been reported that there has been disputes between both groups of workers in the past due the fear of losing work to the other. To deal with this volatile issue, the Morales Administration decided to have both groups work in the mine together, which many people warned was a deadly time bomb that would surely explode (another careless action?). And it did in the worst way- the poor killing the poor with the dynamite that they are supposed to use for work.
I had the most amazing opportunity to visit this mine last week, and took some photos. The mine was shutdown during my time there (almost a month after the incident occurred), but it should reopen soon since Evo initiated talks yesterday to regain control of the mining sector to limit the private companies that are inadvertently putting the workers against each other and to begin negotiations among the workers directly.
This situation accentuates what I think is the main problem that confronts Bolivians- the desperate need to survive. That need was so great in this case that Bolivians are willing to kill each other in order to do it, even if the cause for their suffering is something much greater than them.
It is situations like these that make you step back for minute and think what Bolivia is really about and what is really at stake here. Everything boils down to SURVIVAL, whether it's trying to save your crop from eradication because that's the only source of revenue you have, or killing other workers that appear to be stealing your job. And there are many more ways that this need is evident here. I don't think that I have ever felt the need for survival manifest itself such a desperate way anywhere else I've been. And perhaps it's a good thing, because I get the sense that Bolivia is a place that's living. Bolivians are suffering and they are not afraid of showing it or fighting to change it. Now the question is how one should manifest these needs in social context.
So yes, the intensity level is extremely high here. Everything is just out there and it's up to you to make sense of it for yourself. It's all much bigger and more complicated than I expected, and I've been struggling to figure out how to translate this Bolivian sense of being cinematically for my film. All of these new developments and new thoughts are causing me to change my premise. The most important thing to note is that I have decided that I don't think I'm going to track these social reforms so closely anymore (which was the core of my film!). I've come to realize that to see the effects of these revolutionary reforms that are in the works will take 10-15 years minimum. I can't cover that much in one film. So what's the new center going to be? I think that in light of what I just shared with you, the new center will be focused on depicting on what the state of Bolivia is NOW (the need for survival and the conflicts that brings) and the overwhelming amount of hope and expectation that all Bolivians hold to want to make it all better for themselves. That still sounds like a daunting task for a filmmaker to depict, but I think it's a step in the right direction. I'm still taking it all in. I'm just going to continue observing and reflecting.
I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this, so please feel free to comment. It would help me a lot to get some feedback.
Thanks for reading.
Jul 23, 2008
My One-Month Anniversary in Bolivia- What Do I Make of It? (Vintage blog from Nov 03 2006)
(versión en español sometido antes abajo)
(Vintage blog from Nov 03 2006)