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Photo by Grace Powell, South America Semester.

Friday in Tiquipaya – water wars and farewells

Last Friday was a packed day. After breakfast with our homestay families we walked to the Dragons program house. A guest speaker came, Oscar Olivera, who played a pivotal role in the Cochabamba Water Wars in 2000. We had researched the Water Wars and written a 35-page collaborative policy document during the last to months of classes this Spring, so we were familiar with that struggle and excited to meet a person we had read about. Oscar was impressed that we knew so much and talked with us about what he believes is the legacy of that struggle for local control over public resources. He expanded our understanding of what democracy looks like, especially in a country where most of the population does not trust their government to represent their interests. It was eye opening to hear about how the people of Cochabamba continue to organize in ways to maintain local control as well as preserve their traditions through rain collection systems and food gardens in elementary schools, where students learn all sorts of lessons in all of their subject areas using the gardens and water systems.

We had Spanish lessons before going back to homestay for lunch. That afternoon, there was a huge party for all of the homestay families at the Granja Polen—if you didn’t know this already, the Granja is a local organic farm where Dragons had a library and program house. It was a potluck and every family brought a specialty they like to cook: the food was amazing! We had cake and regalitos to celebrate Rebekah’s 16th birthday. The day ended with a traditional Andean ceremony, a Q’oa, that gives thanks to Pachamama (Mother Earth in Quechua) and in which we offered prayers for all of our families and friends.

– Sully and Teacher Chris