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  • hardie karges 10:06 am on February 18, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bolivia, , La Paz   

    TEODORA 

    I miss Teodora.  In all my history working as a handicraft producer/importer/exporter, working with Teodora was the most fun.  She’s a chola, a partially acculturated citified Aymara Indian.  She’s way cool, wearing the little traditional bowler perched on top of her head, just like the pictures.  She lives in El Alto, a suburb of La Paz, Bolivia, not more than about a long stone’s throw from the international airport.  The altitude there’s about 13,000 feet, and there are peaks all around over 20,000.  The sun beats down unmercifully, but it’s not hot at that altitude, just bright.  The clouds look like you could just reach out and grab a handful.  That’s where Teodora runs her sweater business.  It was hopping a decade ago back when I still had a US-based business.  I made a video of her and her crew going through all their phases of production, a dozen or so friends and family working it all out by hand.  I went back last year for the first time since then.  It’s pretty quiet now, the crafts business being what it is.  If indigenous people get better incomes now doing other things, then more power to them.  I would’ve made more money doing other things, too.  Others made lots, but I didn’t.  Many more than that made nothing and went on to one job after the other, selling real estate, insurance, whatever.  It may not be much, but I’ve given some people some work, and I’ve allowed some people to maintain a traditional lifestyle with a decent income rather than live in the shantytown of a city without much of anything.  For an indigenous person with traditional lifestyle, even poverty in the countryside has more dignity than anonymity in the city. 

     
  • hardie karges 10:13 am on February 17, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bolivia, ,   

    BOLIVIA 

    Peru’s okay, and Bolivia one of my favorite countries of all time, always a poor man’s Nepal, and now a smart one’s also, what with the Marxist insurrection in the Kingdom, not so different from Peru itself circa 1990.  You’ve got to be pretty pathetic to be ‘going Marxist’ in the 21st century, socialist maybe, but not Bolshevik.  Tourists notwithstanding, Nepal is so poor that Nepalese go to India to work.  I was in Kathmandu a week and didn’t see the mountains till the plane took off.  I thought for sure that I’d be going back; maybe I will.  La Paz is already there amongst the peaks.  The plane lets you off at 13,000 feet in El Alto where Teodora lives; then you go down 1500 feet to La Paz, skyscrapers rising up toward you from below.  It can be quite an effort just to breathe sometimes, especially after climbing the steep sidewalks.  But Bolivia’s another world, almost.  There is not a paved road crossing any border into Bolivia, at least not the last time I crossed.  Yet, they have buses more modern than any in North America.  There’s logic there somewhere.  You cruise across the lunar landscape as though there’s nothing more normal than riding a bus at an altitude higher than some airplanes fly.  The local Indians look like leathery-skinned Martians with pointy caps serving as secret transmitters to the mother ship. 

     

     
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