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A young arriero leads a mule across fresh snow in the Peruvian Andes. Photo by Benjamin Swift (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist), South America Semester.

Leaving the Cities for the Apus!

We’re on the move again! We’ve been up to a lot lately… Everything we do together has a learning goal, and this particular group of students has been excellent at constantly challenging each other and us instructors academically, intellectually, and ethically. While in Tiquipaya, we read articles about the Cochabamba Water Wars, watched a film about them with community members, and met with the leading social and water activist- Oscar Olivera. Additionally, we attended talks about Bolivian history and politics with former government leaders as well as Andean Cosmovision with our beloved Valentina who is part of a Women’s collective in Tiquipaya and who organized all of our home-stays for us.

This past week, we’ve done a circuit through some of the most important cities of Bolivia. We contrasted Bolivia’s colonial capital Sucre and the optimism of the Bolivian independence- with Potosí, the home of Cerro Rico and the brutality of the silver mines that have fueled the growth of Europe for over 500 years. We examined sections of “Open Veins of Latin America” to more deeply understand Bolivia’s history and development, as well as The Shock Doctrine and other economic policies that influence Bolivia’s present. We experienced a more firsthand account of the mines when we accompanied our friend Basilio to his home and mine on the mountain. We also had the privilege of visiting the organization CONATSAP, which advocates for child laborers in Potosí. We spent a few hours talking with Luz who runs the center and who explained to us the current situation and laws around child labor in Bolivia.

Finally, out last two days have been spent preparing for trek in the vibrant, bustling city of La Paz. We explored several city markets as we stocked up on food and provisions.

As our week in these distinctly important Bolivian cities comes to a close, we depart with our guide Ricardo- approximately four hours north into the Cordillera Real towards Apu I’llampu (mountain) for our 6 day trek. We will be walking amongst glaciers, bonding with our guides and each other, and taking in this vast important landscape with the blessings of Pachamama.

We will check in again after midcourse on Isla del Sol, in about eight days, as we depart for the Amazon.


The instructors