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Photo by Tom Pablo, Andes & Amazon Semester.

An Introduction to Bolivian Culture

Dear family and friends,

The CSA South America group has undergone a big transition! We traveled for almost 24 hours from the Sacred Valley in Peru, along Lago Titicaca, across an international border, and dropped down from the altiplano into the basin of La Paz. We picked up our IDGC faculty Jochen, and then climbed up and out of La Paz, over a high pass, and down 3,000 m to the tropical region of Coroico in the Yungas province of Bolivia.

In Coroico we took a moment to breathe and recollect ourselves. We reflected on the first half of our semester and all that we learned in Peru. We thought about all of the people who’ve helped us in our journey, the people who shared their homes, the people who drove us places and guided our hikes, the people who taught us Spanish, the people who daily shared their culture, their friendship, and their generosity.

We came back to La Paz following the presidential elections for a deep dive into Bolivian culture. We started with a lecture on the development of “indigenous” identity by Huascar Rodriguez at Fundación Flavio Machicado Viscarra. Afterwards we got a taste of a “Flaviada.” Every Saturday since 1922 the family has invited the public to sit in their living room and enjoy listening to music from their extensive collection of 7000 songs on records of 78, 33, and 45 RPMs. They call these gatherings “flaviadas” after the founder, Flavio. We listened to traditional Bolivian music that included the sounds of the siku and charango as well as some timeless classical favorites.

We also got a tour by Cristina Machicado of the family archive, which she’s been organizing over the past ten years. The archive includes international newspapers collected since the early 20th century, a wide range of books no longer in print, including a copy of Don Quixote illustrated by Dalí, photographs, written correspondence, and other historical documents. Cristina explained the broader importance of a small family archive, and how the various items could be used as inspiration for just about anyone. She also gave us insight into the difficult and laborious process of cataloging and preserving all of the items to share with the public.

This was a great introduction to Bolivian culture and we are excited to share so much more with students over the coming weeks, including the celebrations of San Miguel and Todos Santos in Cochabamba.