Power to people started in 1995 – Urban planning for 2040

One of his colleagues was telling Cutin that if he wanted to interpret what is happening with the cities and with urban development, he had to understand what happened after Act 94 – Power to people – was approved in 1995. Act 94 gave new roles and more power to municipalities.


At around 2000 the Fiscal Pact was defined and the municipalities had to present Annual Operational Plans. In the case of La Paz, after the floods destroyed an important part of the city in Black February (2002), the bigger urban centers started to include the fight against natural disasters as part of their planning.


People discovered that living in cities meant risk and that municipalities had to increase the time for their planning. It started to be done in 2005 for the next four years, and for the second time in 2011 keeping targets, activities and plans for 2040.


At the moment the two neighbors, El Alto and La Paz (both part of the Metropolitan area – two million people) keep growing. Everyday 360,000 people from El Alto descend to work in La Paz, at the same time that 40,000 people from La Paz go to their jobs in El Alto. And both cities keep growing!


Cutin will go to El Alto on coming Sunday!


TV, radio, music and masculinism

Upon arrival to El Alto, Cutin got a room at the Radisson hotel, in Sopocachi. It was very good because he had access to Plaza Bolivia and to several cultural activities. When he tried to watch TV, he had access to Cable TV and then he could watch all types of programmes.

When he moved to Obrajes, he tried to watch the national TV, and it was not that simple. Many different codes were mixed. The TV was quite old, and the programmes were quite boring. Worst than all, he had no access to cable TV. Then he tried to listen to the radio. This was an interesting search. Then he discovered that most of the stations were broadcasting  ‘novelas’, old romantic music, sports, and all type of religious programmes, mainly from Evangelist churches.

So he didn’t have anything against novelas , old or new music, sports or religion, he kept trying and then he got one station broadcasting in French. This was Radio France International.   It was great because then he could listen about the Guernica happening in Gaza, about the Malaysian plane, about the plane which fell in West Africa, and, of course about the Tour de France.

It was interesting for him to find that Radio France was alternating its French broadcast with some Bolivian programmes. As Cutin is a masculinist and feminist, he was astonished to listen to a very good interview to Bernardo Ponce about masculinity in Bolivia and in Latin America. He was explaining how women are suffering violence from men and how it was perceived “to be natural”. He indicated that the are important improvements happening every day.

According to what Cutin listened, there is a lot of reflection and better practice happening now all over Latin America. Men are finding the way to express their emotions: crying, being happy, feeling sad, etc. It will be important to know more about Bernardo Ponce and to learn from the work that they are doing!

Cutin walked from Obrajes (his flat) to Calacoto

It took him more or less the same time he spent walking from Summertown to High Street in Oxford. Cutin was telling me that he was happy because the 35 min walking went down the mountain. Easy, ah? It was great when he saw on his right the La Paz Fair that was launched a couple of days ago by the government. After making some photos he kept walking.

It caught his attention to see that as he descended meter by meter, there was a kind of strange correlation linking the height of the buildings with the price and decoration. Richest people live at the bottom (lowest part) of the city.

As he was trying to buy matches, cherry tomatoes, basil, spaghetti, almonds and Parmesan cheese (one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes), he decided to go to Ketal. He found all he needed, and then he realised that Ketal is very similar to super-markets in the UK. All fruits and tomatoes and vegetal products were very similar to those in M&S or Sainsbury, with regular shapes, same size, etc., etc. Then he realised that vegetable products were better in Hipermax or in Super 10.

As his way back home was up the mountain, he decided to use a Puma Katari. Though it was a bit packed, all went well. He was delighted to see the courtesy and solidarity of people in the bus. A very old lady using her ‘pollera’ and her typical hat was seating on the stairs of the bus, in the exit door. Seated passengers called her to offer their places. She went happy!

When Cutin was going out of the bus, a very old lady, as old as his mom, tried to leave the bus, but her legs were very weak and she didn’t have the energy to go down the stairs to the street. After several people helped her to go out of the bus, she went away, walking slowly.

Cutin went to his flat to make spaghetti. It tasted good!

Three Cosmo visions disputing the link with God – Cutin tells his story

One of the best things in life is to learn from your colleagues. A couple of days ago Cutin was talking to Lourdes (she is from the low lands in East Bolivia and has lived about 20 years here in the Altiplano) and she started to tell him about how when you see Bolivia in the big steps of history, you can see three main Cosmo visions lived by Bolivians today.

First is the Judeo-Christian vision, which is still dominant. It is linked to rites and to the definition of holidays. Bolivia was a Catholic state, until the big shift implemented by social movements, by Evo Morales and MAS, when they confirmed a new vision of the pluri-national Bolivia. Cutin was surprised to see that quite recently Evo Morales visited Pope Francisco in the Vatican.

The second Cosmo-vision is the Aymara-Quechua, from the Andes. It has completely different symbols to the first and there are no different hierarquies. The relation with land means the relation with the gods, and it means health! Bolivians today can get any of the more traditional or the most modern health systems, which are attached to class too. When a girl or a boy is born, s/he is presented to community. Parents have to wait until the baby’s hair is long enough. Then, they make a plait. Community members receive a plait and they give the child between B/ 200 – B/ 300. This becomes the initial capital that he/she might invest in sheep or other animals.

In order to mix both (which Cutin found disempowering) different celebrations have been created. One of them is the carnival in February when you combine both visions.

The third Cosmo-vision  are the Evangelists covering now around 30% of the population, and it keeps growing. Today I was using my Sony radio (present I got from my mom) and it was astonishing to see the many radio programmes broadcasting the different beliefs!

After listening to Lourdes, Cutin decided to watch how these three expressions are happening in Bolivia today. He will tell you more, I am sure!

October 2014 – Important moment for politics in Bolivia

It seems that I got to La Paz at an important political moment for Bolivia. Though when I read and learn about Bolivian history (particularly all along the 20th century and particularly after 1952), it seems that politics and social movements have been fundamental in order to implement structural social change in one of the poorest and unequal countries in Latin America.

The political moment is quite interesting because a new presidential election will happen in October and all seems to indicate that Evo Morales (leading MAS – Movimiento al Socialismo), who was elected for the first time in 2006, will be re-elected.

It seems that the changes implemented after he was elected are so important that there is no way back. Though the results may have not been as impressive ‘as expected’, the changes implemented are relevant in all fronts. Though the country is improving, there are several important questions about the relation between the Nation (being Bolivian) within a Pluri-national state, the meaning of the State, the identity of social movements and the relevance of the campesino and indigenous groups.

I had visited Bolivia twice in 2002, when the big disputes against the World Bank happened because of the charges imposed by the foreign debt on society. After eleven years, after Evo Morales/MAS was elected and the hydrocarbons were nationalised, I can see in La Paz an impressive investment in infrastructure, buses and an impressive cable-car network linking important parts of a mountainous city.   The sport fields here in La Paz and all over the country) seem to be good.

Two days ago it was launched the La Paz Fair Venue, and though it is not as big as the one in Santa Cruz or the one in Cochabamba, it is quite impressive and will be useful for all the businesses related with the to the non-stopping migration of Bolivians from all over the country.


Public Transport in La Paz

Public transport in La Paz

Every morning I have gone to the office by taxi. I take it at the door of the hotel and it costs me B/ 20, which is close to US$ 3.00. If I want to pay less I have to take either a Trufi, which are collective taxis going to different places in the city. One Trufi ticket is B/ 3.50. The other possibilities are small buses or the Puma Katari, special bus with very few stops.

Today I tried to take a Trufi, but it was quite difficult. Most of them had no space or I couldn’t understand all the names written on the front! Tomorrow I will try again!


Landing in El Alto – La Paz – Bolivia – highest capital in the world

Landing in El Alto – La Paz airport

After flying close to three hours from Bogota, we landed in El Alto, at a bit higher than 4000 m.a.s.l. After a simple immigration process, at 3:30 in the morning a lady driver got us to our hotel in La Paz. It was great to see El Alto again and I started to realise how big is growing. It is a kind of another city close to La Paz. 

Sleeping at 4:00 a.m.

It was fantastic to go through La Paz’s streets and observing that Bolivia’s capital city has had a lot of investment in infrastructure. All looked nice and clean, and it was a good start to see and feel Bolivia’s development  under Evo Morales/MAS government. At 9:00 we had breakfast and went to attend our first meetings. Before driving to Oxfam’s office I measured my pulse rate and haemoglobin to see if all was at the levels recommended by my GP: 94/47, 93/57, 90/45, have been the average measures, which is great! Better than that, I have felt quite well. Yes, walking slowly, but adapting to living at 3,600 m.a.s.l.

First feelings of La Paz

It is a beautiful city, with a lot of people on the street, all walking slowly, a lot of talking and beautiful parks and architecture. When we were going to our office it was great to watch the Ilimani  peak, full of snow, brilliant in a sunny day. After 20 minutes or so, we were at Obrajes, where Intermon, Oxfam Quebec and Oxfam GB share a house. I met all my new colleagues. Some of them had met Manolo some weeks/months ago. We started working and I started to place myself in the new role of leading the 2020 strategic programme. 


People here love all types of meat. Not knowing yet about the vegetarian options, I went into trout for my first lunch. For my first dinner we went to a restaurant which has been founded by the Danish and Bolivians, and they are making delicious dishes using the enormous (impressively enormous) variety of Bolivian dishes. DELICIOUS. 

Plato Paceno in Api Happy 

Today I went to have lunch with my colleague Ricardo. I had a Plato Paceno: it combines products from the valleys and from the high lands, potatoes, choclo, fresh cheese and broad beans. All can go pretty well with good llahua (hot spicy sauce made from tomatoes, locotos and seeds). For drinks we had: Mocochinchi, which is made from dried peaches, and Huilcaparu, an Andean cereal. After paying I got from Vilma a frequent client card!

Watching the preparations for the Entrada

My hotel is placed in Sopocachi, close to Plaza Bolivia. When I was having dinner I started to listen drums. A lot of young women and men from the university were practising their dances for the Entrada that will happen on coming Sunday. Watching the dances of some 200-300 young people and listening to their traditional music was the best way to start this first contribution to our Orange Tree.