Day 2: Contemporary Social Problems in Bolivia

We began this morning with a rousing discussion of neoliberalism, inclusion and cosmopolitanism inspired by Nancy Postero’s article on the struggle to create radical democracy in Bolivia. Then, we heard a sweeping summary of contemporary issues in Bolivia from Vivian Scharz Blum from CiudadaniaShe emphasized the difficulties of institutional reform.


After lunch with their host families, we walked to the Universidad San Martin campus, the biggest public university in Cochabamba. Tuition is free, but the campus was closed for almost four months last year because of strikes.


We heard accounts from students leaders about the attack on their organizations’ headquarters, and their demands that the quality of education be improved, including ongoing review of professor performance, and ensuring that students are able to graduate as well educated profesionales.

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Day 1: Bolivian History

Today was a full day! We started with a few reminders from Lee about Bolivian manners (greet everyone in the room, and be sure to say goodbye to everyone!) and safety (sadly illustrated by the stitches she got yesterday after a bite from a neighborhood dog). Then,  some general reflections about political anthropology and the vivir bien movement.


Our guest speaker today was Rafael Puente, an ex-Jesuit and leading expert in formación política. He gave an expert introduction to Bolivian history, asking two profound question: how did Bolivia emerge as a country when it is made up of so many different regions that often have more in common with neighboring countries than with each other? And, how did Bolivia go from being one of the richest countries in the hemisphere to one of the poorest? (hint: Potosí is the key to both answering both questions).


After our welcome lunch with the Volunteer Bolivia staff, we took a walking tour with David, who showed us some historic sites, ending up in the Convento Museo Santa Teresa, where we learned about the cloistered life of nuns in the 17th century. The convent is being repaired, so we only toured the downstairs, but is still in use. Then, everyone made their way back to their host families for dinner and well-deserved rest.

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It was a miracle! Everyone arrived on time, with their bags, most exhausted after the over night flight but in good spirits. We began our orientation with Lee Criland, from Volunteer Bolivia, who gave an overview of safety tips, home-stay advice and general warnings. Students learned about their host families.


Everyone met up with their host families, and headed out for the afternoon. Class starts tomorrow at 9am. We are still waiting for Ben, who arrives tomorrow. Safe travels, Ben!

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