Greetings from Tiquipaya, Bolivia, my home and a place that you will soon call home as well.
My name is Pedro Rodríguez García, and as the Local Director of the Bridge Year Bolivia program I will be helping to shape and support your year abroad. Born and raised in Bolivia, I come from a Quechua background and my parents instilled in me strong social values and an activist mentality. As you will soon see these are principles that define much of Bolivian society.
I have been involved in the Dragons community for several years, first as an Independent Study Project mentor for our semester programs and later as an instructor. I have led two Andes & Amazon semesters and a summer course in Bolivia, and this is my fourth year guiding Princeton students through their Bridge Year.
As a high school and university student, I was actively involved in a series of important social movements in Bolivia that have defined the recent history of this country. In the year 2000, I fought together with thousands of others in the infamous Cochabamba Water Wars, a civil protest that reversed the privatization of the city’s public water system. This event has become a historic milestone not only for the Bolivian people but for communities all over the world.
I studied Communications at the Public University of Cochabamba, where I reinforced my knowledge of political and social theory and the role of visual media in influencing culture. Later, I enrolled in the Cochabamba Film School where I specialized in making documentaries. I have since worked with several local and international organizations producing audiovisual materials, and have completed several films focused on social and environmental issues.
The desire to better understand cultural and political processes in my own country has led me to explore other parts of the Americas. In my youth, I learned that traveling outside of my community, my country, and my comfort zone have has allowed me to better understand the world around me. I have spent time in Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay, Perú, Argentina, Mexico, parts of Europe and the United States, and it has been a pleasure to get to know some of the other vibrant cultures that co-exist in this great hemisphere.
I am eager to show each of you a bit of my country and culture on this upcoming adventure in Bolivia.
Tiquipaya is a small agricultural town located 14 kilometers from the city of Cochabamba, at the base of Mt. Tunari on the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains. Tunari is a sacred peak, or apu, considered a protector of life in the valleys according to the Quechua indigenous worldview. Here you will have a routine, get to know and share with the community, and develop new skills and cultural fluency. I look forward to seeing you navigate these small streets day after day, enjoying a glass of refreshing mocochinchi and a hot salteña.
We will pass our days in the BYP Program House, called “Casa Amaru,” where you will perfect your Spanish skills and together we will watch films, meet with local professionals, and debate our ideas with urgency and depth. We will see Bolivia through diverse sets of eyes and emotions, making each day a small adventure.
As you will soon discover, the ancestral culture of the Andes is ever-present in modern Bolivian society. Traditional concepts inform a system of ideas known as “Andean cosmovision,” a way of seeing the world and understanding our place within it in harmony with the environment and Pachamama, or Mother Earth. Similarly, Bolivian culture is greatly influenced by the syncretism between the ancestral inheritance of indigenous culture and the legacy of the Spanish conquest. This blend of influences defines important aspects of social life in the Andes such as spirituality, ritual, festivity, and agriculture.
Bolivia was re-founded a few years ago as a ” Pluri-National State,” thus recognizing the diverse cultural reality that shapes Bolivian society and accepting the existence of 36 nationalities within its territory, each with its own culture, language and traditions. The three predominant ethnic groups are Quechua, inhabiting the central valleys around Cochabamba; Aymara, seated in the vast Andean highlands that surround Lake Titicaca and the city of La Paz; and Guaraní, who occupy the Chaco plains in the southeastern part of the country extending into Paraguay and Argentina.
I believe that learning through experience is the most sincere path towards human fulfillment, and since ancestral times the transmission of knowledge has been most effective if passed on through everyday experiences. Life experiences that take us out of our comfort zone require us to interact with a myriad of settings and people from diverse backgrounds, obligating us to adapt and take courageous and sincere decisions. Through those exchanges and reflections we will learn from our experiences together in a unique and unrepeatable moment in space and time.
We await you eagerly and with open arms.
Un abrazo desde el sur compañer@s de aventura,