¡Spanish and Politics Everywhere!

IMG_0364Although my internship didn’t particularly revolve around politics, going to Bolivia gave me the opportunity to experience firsthand the political culture of the South American region. Surprisingly, it didn’t take much effort to start noticing how politically charged the country was and how much I’d be learning during my stay. I can affirm that my observation of the intricate and dynamic socialist ideals implemented in Bolivia has cemented my conviction that Political Science is the major I want to pursue and Latin America is undoubtedly the region I’d like to exercise my career.

  • When I stepped out of the international airport of Viru Viru in the department of Santa Cruz , I immediately took note of the official name of Bolivia, “Plurinational State of Bolivia”, which suggested a distinct ethnic demographic distribution. With further observation, I also noticed the Wiphala, an emblem that represents some native peoples of all the Andes, seemingly attached to the recognizable national flag. It took a few stilted conversations to finally get a local’s perspective on the political climate of Bolivia. I soon realized that I had landed in a peculiar part of Bolivia. One that was resolutely capitalist, held an abundance of natural resource and brimmed with regionalism. Nevertheless, Bolivia is consolidated under the motto “Unity is Strength”. However, I believe that the conspicuous culture of personality and socialist policies established by the Aymaran president is the major reason the country is unified.
  • The single biggest learning moment in Bolivia was staying with the Moreño tribe living in the Amazon forest in the department of Beni. In the small village of some 22 wattle and wood plank houses, a few chickees, a single Catholic church, and about 150 people, I witnessed a constitutional democracy run solely by tribal law. The community had cut all its ties with La Paz over a feud to thwart governmental efforts to build a highway through the forest. In the village, I attended a general meeting in which an adult representative from each house took part to hear about our mission and vote on solutions local problems.

Written by Marlon Dos Santos, BC Class of 2018

 

 

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Pedaling Forward: BC-maquin’a difference

IMG_2198 (1)This summer I have the opportunity to intern with CECAM Bolivia and to work on the Cochabamba Pedal Project. CECAM Bolivia is a non-profit organization dedicated to implementing sustainable projects in order to support disadvantaged communities in suburban and rural areas. The goal of the Cochabamba Pedal Project is to promote environmental sustainability while providing underprivileged persons with a means of generating revenue by converting used bikes into pedal powered machines or “bicimaquinas”. These machines can be rented out for profit or used to accelerate typically long and tiresome processes such as grinding corn or making soap. The ultimate goal of CECAM is to open a BiciCafe that would allow the organization to be self-sufficient.

The cultural background and Spanish-speaking skills I have acquired as a Hispanic Studies major have been imperative in my work with CECAM. Every project aims to cater to the necessities of rural and suburban people while upholding the uttermost respect for their local customs and beliefs. Bicimaquinas are created and introduced with this principle in mind.  Spanish, on the other hand, has been particularly useful during workshops in which I work with my colleague, a native speaker, to promote biking and inform about its environmental and health benefits. Furthermore, the theoretical concepts concerning social justice I learned as a McGuillyCuddy-Louge Fellow have materialized in my daily routine.

My experiences outside of the classroom, however, have enabled me to fully comprehend the intricacies of social injustices and how to reconcile my beliefs and the reality of systematic poverty. Through the Appalachia Service Trip and Saint Joseph’s Project, I have also been encouraged to consider what service means to me personally and how my understanding of accompaniment relates to that of the Jesuit teachings. Working in the poorest country in South America, I have taken up the quest of searching for answers in daily observations and reflection.

Written by Marlon Dos Santos, BC Class of 2018