Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bolivian Education : A Long Way To Go

I've been having long talks with Marta Orozco, a friend who lives down the street, and a longtime acivist in indigenous movements here. She was one of the people who resurrected the ceremony of the Aymaran New Year in Tiwanaku, along with about 30 others from South America, and 5 from Canada. Also one of the first to bring in the Wiphala flag as the symbol of indigenous movements here. She is very warm, friendly, and also has very strong opinions, especially about the negative role of the Catholic Church on indigenous people.

Today her 16 year old son Huascar joined us in our conversation, and we talked a little about education in Bolivia. He says no Quechua or Aymara,the two main Native languages here, are taught in the schools. The books are there, but there's no one to teach the languages. Marta tells me that last year when he insisted on wearing his Chullo, the traditional Andean wool cap, to school, his teachers all told him he couldn't do it. The textbooks give pretty much the European viewpoint of view of the Conquest, though some of his teachers will add their own opinions. Former education minister Felix Patzi was trying to change things, bring more teachers of Native languages into the school system, etc. but he's no longer minister and now Huascar feels that everything has been left "up in the air." Some felt Patzi was trying to go to fast and was unrealistic about what could actually be done.

Indians here were not allowed to learn to read and write until 1952. I've heard stories about hands being chopped off and all kinds of atrocious punishments given to those who tried to learn, as well as to their teachers.

Morales has his work cut out for him.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


It's carnival time in Bolivia...which means the streets of La Paz are packed with tiny kids shooting white foam out of waterpistols bigger than they are, teenagers in red t shirts drenching each other with waterbuckets, masks, yells, laughter, and the rumba rumba rumba of the Bolivian marching bands that have by now become almost background noise to me.

I'm installed in the Sagarnaga Linares district of La Paz, where I can walk down the cobblestoned streets in the morning to a buffet breakfast at the Sarai Hotel and then in to one of the internet cafes to work or just meander through the Net.

But during carnival time you have to be careful, because one of those little kids or teenagers is likely to see you as a potential target:splat.

In the nearby Plaza San Francisco, some miners from Huanuni and their family members have been staging demonstrations, climbing up on the front of the cathedral, and roping themselves to crucifixion crosses. Apparantly Morales wants to take them away from the mines they have been working as cooperatistas and send them to a different region, where there isn´t as much money.