August – Month for Pachamama

After the crops were collected, the land had some rest and now Pachamama is waking up. She is hungry and she is eager to get food from us. During most of August, Andean people celebrate rituals to give back what Pachamama gave us: food, coca, chicha, wine, etc. Last Friday we celebrated it in our place and we asked for prosperity and health for the next year.


The day before, one of our colleagues went to the Chifleras (people selling the several parts) to buy all the elements to make our offer. On a big paper we put khoa (sacred and aromatic plant) at the centre. All around the khoa we put llama wool and candies with the shape of Virgin Mary, US$ (we need money!) and many other symbols. Then, every one of us put coca leaves and muscatel wine. We got the fire on and we put our offer to burn. We started an ancient rite, assuming that we are part of earth (Pachamama).


Depending on the final colour of the ashes, we know if it will be good or not. It took us like 3 hours to get it done. It was not easy. Though we all took care of the fire, in the process we discovered that we did not work as a team. We did not put the initial logs leaving space for air to circulate (many of us were in a hurry…) and we did not leave the holes at the bottom of the fire open for air (and oxygen) to circulate properly.


After one or two hours we got a huge cluster of candy and unburned khoa and llama wool without burning. Most of our friends had left. But then, the few of us who stayed close to the remaining fire started to think on what was happening. We broke the cluster, opened the bottom and put some wood and alcohol and… it was great to see the immediate result. All was burned and we got white ashes at the end!

Perhaps the best part was when we started to assimilate the ritual with the real life of our team. We started to discover many similarities, jealousy, lack of knowledge and lack of patience, lack of proper communication and… worse of all… lack of adequate space for oxygen to circulate.


The Pachamama gives life but it takes it too! Now that the khoa’s smell went to the superior world, we will see how the Pachamama power will help us to grow. Yes, our life will continue to be close to agriculture. In the discrete space of silent communication, we will see how to succeed.



Parity is Happening Now !

Bolivia is now running into the presidential election. On the 12 of October a new president will be elected and the Organisation of American States will send 50 observers. According to a survey made by the Ipsos Apoyo agency in the recent days, 59% of the intention of voting goes to Evo Morales. This is an average figure including stats from La Paz (68%), and figures from all other departments. In Beni the support for Morales is 35%. If we add all votes from the 4 parties in the opposition, the total indicates 25% of supporters in La Paz, while 39% is the voting in Beni. According to the existing figures, Evo Morales would be re-elected.

It has been interesting to read today in La Razón, that from the list of topics that the electoral offer should include, 64 % of voters have put clearly to stop violence against women.  In the urban centres the support is 2% bigger than in the rural areas. In departments like Cochabamba and Potosí the support is 73% and 75 %. Margoth Soria (Bolivian Green Party, candidate for vice-presidency) considers that the existing situation is the direct result from society, building its values on the ‘macho’ culture. The education system would be the best tool to educate new generations.

According to the Pan American Health Organisation, 7 out of 10 women have suffered violence in Bolivia. According to several of the candidates, there are rules and laws, but the problem is that they are not applied. It seems that one of the key problems is the lack of budget given to institutions to stop violence.  Citizens education and institutional budget seem to be an important part of the solution.

In this context it was great to see few days ago women’s organisations from the 9 departments launching their “Parity is Happening Now” political agenda. They go against the patriarchal domination and they are asking important questions to present democracy.  Their call considers specific actions on 5 fields:

  1. Power democratisation and political power to women
  2. Cultural, symbolic and material deconstruction of patriarchy
  3. Guarantee and conditions to live free from any type of violence
  4. Autonomy and self-determination to exercise sexual and reproductive rights
  5. Economic autonomy, recognition of economic support and re-valuing of domestic work.

In case that you want to know more about Parity is Happening Now, please go to:


Walking from the Radisson Hotel to CasaIdeas La Paz – Multicine

What a day!

I have been without eating during the last three days or so. Most probably I neither peel the tomatoes or the apples, nor washed the basil and I had a strong diarrhoea during three days. Yes, I know that I have had a strong experience in ‘strong’ environments, but most probably the main cause was my lack of care, change in altitude, and change of food. Anyway, now I am feeling well and back to the blog.

Today I said to myself that I should have a good lunch. Then I chose to go to explore Topocachi in order to understand why people like so much going there. I left the Puma Katari and started to walk. Suddenly I recognised the Hotel Radisson, where I stayed during my first 4 days in La Paz. Hmmm… it should be a good place to eat, said my stomach to my brain!

I went into the hotel and took a table for two. They had a huge and varied buffet offering all types of salads (one of them having choclo and seafood), hot food (trout from Lake Titicaca, or chicken or pork), potatoes, batatas, yucca, deserts and Chupe de Mani. The Chupe is a soup coming from Peru,  made with vegetables, ground shrimps and ground peanut. Wow, the mix of flavours and colours that I had at lunch!

Then I went to walk. The Brazilian Embassy is a huge and precious building. Schools and government buildings and… suddenly I got to one of the Alexander coffee shops. But I didn’t want to drink a coffee because I had already had Mate de Manzanilla. When I considered to keep walking, I realised that the coffee shop was part of CasaIdeas – Multicine. 


I went in and the feeling was great. The building had three floors with all kind of the most modern shops, and the architects used one of the big crevices that you get all over the city. The feeling was impressive. They have 10 cinemas offering all the Hollywood stuff and one Bolivian film that I will go to watch: “Olvidados”, produced by Carla Ortiz. It tells the story about Plan Condor (for the first time!), which was perhaps the most repressive military regime in the 70’s, coordinated by the dictators of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.  It has just been launched in La Paz and very soon will go to the rest of Latin America and Spain.  I will try to see it this week!

Moving high from La Paz to El Alto

At around mid-morning Cutin decided to go to El Alto. It was interesting for him to realise how some of his actions would put him in contact with activities he has had in Oxford and in some places in Europe.

First of all was getting on the Puma Katari. It was great when other passengers arrived and everyone was wondering about the queue. “Good morning sir. Where does it start?” With few passengers in the bus and with few cars on the road, very quickly he reached the Central Park.

When he started to walk up the mountain to reach the cable car station, he got to the frontal part of the Ministry of Agriculture, promoting the 2014 International Year of Family Farming, in which he had been working for more than a year.


He kept walking and after crossing a very traditional area, he reached the cable car station. He went inside ant it was like going into any cable car system, be it in Medellín, Monte Baldo (close to Garda) or in the Alpes. The cable car system in La Paz links La Paz ( 1 m people) and El Alto (a growing 1m people becoming a new city!) and passengers pay Bs/ 3.00 (that is 40 p in the UK). All announcements are in Quechua (or Aymara?), Spanish and English.


Not more than 10 passengers per car. After crossing over I don’t know how many labyrinths of red-brick neighbourhoods in about 10 minutes, we were at El Alto, over 4,000 metres above sea level. Built by the Austria’s company Doppelmayr it can move 18,000 people an hour! When it is completed this year, it will be the highest and longest cable car system in the world.

After a few hundred metres from the station Cutin went into a completely different world. He got into the 16 of July Avenue. This was a very special place. It looked like any poor suburban area in Bogota or Lima or Quito or Sao Paulo, dedicated to trade on whatever you might think: cars, motors, dampers, electricity, glass, etc., etc. Then he got into the motorcycle parts, and then the bicycle blocks. At the first roundabout he turned right and then he got into the ‘polleras’ area. All the stores mixed with a few very tall and modern buildings where traders have built their headquarters. On top of these buildings they have built special areas for their homes.


He tried to eat something, but… there were no restaurants. He could only find street food and he didn’t dare… It would be better to go to Hotel La Casona in La Paz. He walked back to the main station and descended in 10 minutes to La Paz!

“Bolivia: Processes of Change” – a good book to read

It was great for Cutin arriving to Bolivia and getting a good book about the country from one of his colleagues. He got a copy of the book written by John Crabtree and Ann Chaplin in 2013 by Zed books.

It’s interesting because it makes a good balance about changes and about questions on change coming from Bolivian people. People say, they write. The publication was supported by PIEB, CEDLA and Oxfam.

The authors interviewed about 150 people from all over the country, from different municipalities and ethnic groups.

After they consider the role played by the popular organisations in defining the start of the change process in 2005 (when Evo Morales was elected president by representing MAS – Movimiento al Socialismo), they make a good analysis of land, campesinos and indigenous people.

Then they go through Bolivian geography: Altiplano, El Alto, mining and miners, coca producers, gas and the growing income for Chaco people (South East). Then they go to gas and the impacts it is having on indigenous people in the Chaco. They go to Santa Cruz and the changes that happened in power structures.

Finally, they go to the Amazonia north and go into conclusions.

Cutin told me that he considers important for himself (and for you too!) to read this book as a powerful tool to understand how social and political movements will define their strategies to elect president in coming October.

Will Evo Morales will be re-elected for the second time? Is there any other alternative to bring forward deepening the changes already achieved?

Bolivia: autonomous region, campesinos, indigenous people, gas, mining ... and new cities!

Bolivia: autonomous region, campesinos, indigenous people, gas, mining … and new cities!

Uuuuuff … Cutin lost his wallet today!

According to what he told me couple of hours ago, at around 13:45 he decided, finally, to go North in order to reach the Sagárnaga road, where he could see beautiful handicrafts. Before leaving, he wrote on a post-it note that he had to buy a bottle of water and some kind of hydration cream. The rest was to walk and to enjoy the landscape! Well, but before leaving, he went back to the flat to get B/ 300 (US$ 40) to have money to pay, in case that something might come up.

He left. He had to cover 6.3 kilometers and … all the time up the mountain.

After 20 minutes walking along the Costanera (important highway) he could see the Illimani snow mountain. Beautiful.  After another 20 minutes walk, he met Saint Ignacio of Loyola,   who was on the top of the mountain watching the Illimani too! Cutin was laughing. Then he started to cross under enormous bridges which are connecting different mountains. Good engineer work, he said!


He kept going until he found, face to face with a painting of Carlos Gardel. The Plaza Gardel and the Gardel building were there. Nearby he met two workers who had big pots of mambe (coca leave) in their mouths. Cutin asked them about the Sagárnaga road and very gently they explained how to reach there. At this moment he watched a huge poster announcing VIGRXPLUS. He wanted to make a picture, but the sun did not help. As he started to meet more and more people, he avoided any contact with anyone, and as he walked, he was always touching the wallet in his pocket. It was there.

It was only after a few metres that he got to a pharmacy and bought the latest Niveas Hydration Express. He took money from his wallet to pay. After another 20 min or so, Cutin met Simon Bolivar, on his horse, with his sword, achieving the last details of the Bolivian independence, on the 6th August 1825. It was at this moment, when he touched his pocket that he realised that the wallet was not there! Either it has been very gently robbed or … he could have left it in the pharmacy.

He tried to get back to the pharmacy, climbing mountains, descending, looking everywhere. He couldn’t find it and he got sad. He went to an Internet café to know where he was! But he couldn’t put it on the map. He was exhausted, with no money to buy a glass of water or to go back! He asked a taxi driver how to get to Obrajes, to his flat. The driver told him to walk 1 more block and then descend and descend until the end. This is what he did. It was after 20 minutes or so that he saw Gardel and the Vigrxplus poster… He did not think about making photos. He got to the pharmacy. It was still open.


He told the woman who had sold the cream that he had left his wallet there. She smiled,   and she gave it back. Cutin was alive and happy and smiling again! He bought a box of chocolates and gave it to the woman, and after drinking 2 mandarin juices and a quinua salad, he went back home, with the wallet in his pocket!


The Bolivian nation in the times of the Pluri-national state

One week ago, Cutin had the possibility to attend the colloquium that was organised by PIEB. It was opened by Godofredo Sandoval, followed by short presentations made by Fernando Mayorga (sociologist), Javier Sanjinés (Literature) and Luis Tapia (political scientist). Then the results of eight research projects were presented. Cutin thinks that it was fantastic listening to the several presentations, in order to understand questions presented to Bolivians nowadays.


Some of the key ideas that he got were:

• The present nation recognises and affirm social diversity;
• The revolutionary nationalism continues to exist in a simultaneous way coming from modernity and from globalisation. In real terms ‘globalisation’ means mainly ‘South-Americanisation’: strong links with Brazil (gas, soy), the Plata Basin, and the growth of relations with China.
• The traditional party system collapsed and it was replaced by campesino and indigenous movements. The Constituent assembly held in 2009 considered some of the new political contradictions.
• The topic of “multicultural citizen” is important.
• It’s important to understand the existing polarity between soy entrepreneurs from Santa Cruz and the Aymara traders in La Paz.
• Cutin was surprised when he Heard that the “pluri national state” is coming as a new mask, overlapped with other recent masks: contractual, national-populist, modern, syncretist.

Bolivia is now facing a complicated and complex puzzle. The values that are coming from globalisation are so overwhelming and strong that indigenous people and urban middle class will fail.

Cutin left the Colloquium thinking that constituting the pluri-national state is the real and concrete political bet!