Saturday, June 21, 2008

Miners,Blockades, and 1,000 Indigenous Women Leaders

On Thursday our itinerary hit a fortuitous and literal roadblock. With our first phase of interviewing complete (18 interviews in 7 days in El Alto), and with Cèsar heading back to Lima (he'll rejoin us for the first two weeks in Ecuador), Nicole and I had planned to take a three-day trip to Potosì before continuing our work in Cochabamba. Massive strikes by miners demanding a new and more just labor contract, however, have resulted in the blockading of all highways into Potosi.

As we walked toward our final Thursday interview, we mused over the possibility of going to Sucre instead. The interview was to be with the national director of Bartolina Sisa, the largest organization of Bolivian women leaders. Earlier in the day, we had debated whether or not to pursue this particular interview, since the person that seemed a better interview subject was lower on the totem pole, but focused specifically on El Alto. When we talked to her, however, she told us she was busy getting ready for a big trip, and could not meet with us for another two weeks. She did not say where or why she was travelling, and there was no reason to ask.

We decided to interview the national director. Upon arrival, she all business and eager to give us what we needed so we would be on our way, as the office was a flurry of activity. We asked what was going on and they explained that they were in the final stages of organizing a gathering of 1,000 women leaders.... in Sucre.


Nicole and I turned to look at each other, and exchanged faint smiles. There was no need for discussi0n.

"So that is why we are so busy. Now, how can I help you?"

"Yes, well, we are here to request permission to attend the gathering in Sucre."

One hastily scribed letter of introduction later, we got our participant badges, and we are on our way. Sunday morning Cesar departs for Peru, and Nicole and I head for Sucre.

Hopefully we can learn Quechua by the time we get there.

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