Taking Another U-Turn

Potosí was deeply impactful and will follow my exploration for the next couple months, likely staying in my life as a shadow of influence. That being said, although I continue to discover more of my thoughts on the situation, I’d like to keep blogging about other experiences here. (When I’m back in the United States, please feel free to ask me more about Potosí!)

After our all-too-brief visit to Potosí, we spent a few days in Sucre, which I can safely say is my favorite city so far in Bolivia. Although La Paz is the location of the Presidential Palace and officially the capital of Bolivia, Sucre remains the constitutional capital. Sucre’s age and proximity to Potosí leaves it with a stronger colonial influence than Cochabamba, as well as a stronger tourism community. Although I don’t necessarily enjoy the more touristy feel, it helps to maintain a closer connection to “Old Bolivia” – both colonial and indigenous. We spent almost an entire day with the Cultural Center MASIS, which works to preserve indigenous music and dance. We also spent an afternoon at the ASUR foundation and museum, which left me ever-so-slightly startstruck.

In fact, I was so enthralled, I’ve decided to completely change the direction of my independent study project to focus entirely on the project. (To be fair, our visit to Potosí also left me with a stronger desire to give back to the community than an agricultural policy analysis may have yielded.) The ASUR foundation is what I view as an almost-ideal development project for several reasons. It works with campesinos (people who live in the country, usually working in agriculture) to revive the art of weaving. They bring patterns and old weavings to teach (primarily) women how to weave more intricate patterns that have been lost over the years. The foundation also buys the completed weavings based on intricacy and size to sell at their own museum, or helps the community sell them on their own. This way, the increased intricacy taught by the foundation increases the value of the weavings, encouraging women to weave more and learn new patterns.

I like this project for a few reasons:
1. It aids sustenance workers to increase “income” outside of agriculture.
2. It doesn’t force people into the city.
3. It encourages a thriving indigenous culture (resisting cultural homogeneity).
4. Not only does it revive the weaving industry – it also revives an entire product chain, from wool to markets.
5. The project is almost entirely sustainable, relying on tourism to the museum/purchase of weavings to fund growth into new areas.
(Note: This is only a very brief outline of the project and its development opportunities.)

However, I recalled the Lonely Planet entry about the museum simply stating that it’s an indigenous textile museum, whereas other cafes and museums in Sucre had notes about what foundations they supported. Clearly there was a missed opportunity here, especially considering the project’s reliance on tourism. After my discussion with the museum director, I hope to return to Sucre at the end of October to help produce English descriptions of the project and museum to promote with various travel guidebooks and hopefully an online travel article.

Ultimately, I’ve found an opportunity that I only hope to pursue – after all, this country can be a bit inconsistent. (I say as I sit in my house, attempting to coordinate with classmates on a project online, as there are no motor vehicles allowed today due to a referendum vote.) However, it is a project that I’m very excited to explore, in my favorite city so far.

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