Bolivia: Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change
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Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Students spend extensive time outside Cochabamba, including traveling to the tropical lowlands, the Andeans altiplano, and El Alto, the largest indigenous city in Latin America.
La Paz, the altiplano, and Lake Titicaca
Students visit the ruins at Tiwanaku where they discover the ancient mysteries of pre-Incan civilization: lectures are led by Bolivia's renowned archaeologist, Oswaldo Rivera. As part of this excursion, students either visit the pre-Incan pilgrimage site of Copacabana or spend five days living with Aymara host families on the shores of Lake Titicaca, where they share in a collective meal called apthapi, join in collective community work called ayni, and participate in an Andean ritual led by an Aymara spiritual leader.
In El Alto, the largest indigenous city in Latin America, students visit the public university and meet with student activists who participated in the 2003 Gas War and ousting of neoliberal president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. Accompanied by formerly exiled miner's union leader Felix Muruchi, this visit may include interviews with local shamans and a vibrant interchange with members of Teatro Trono, a fascinating rehabilitation center which engages street children in the performing arts.
A visit to La Paz may include a lecture at the World Bank; a talk on Andean cosmovision by an indigenous member of the government cabinet; a visit to the café of Mujeres Creando, a radical feminist-anarchist group; and a discussion with a well-known film director, following the viewing of a classic Bolivian film.
Potosí and Sucre
The excursion to the silver-mining town of Potosi is an experience of contrasts. The Casa de la Moneda, or mint, represents the epoch of the conquest when the silver mine, the Cerro Rico, produced sufficient silver to support the Spanish Empire and stimulate the European economy at the expense of the slaves who entered the mine to live and die without seeing daylight. Later, the mine became a source of tin, which supported the country in boom times and led to a major economic crash. Students visit a cooperative which has been mining tin and other minerals since privatization. This is followed by a visit to the home of a miner's family and an interactive exchange between students and children at an educational center for children of miners, whose goal is to seek alternatives to a future in the mines.
In contrast, Sucre is one of the most relaxing and pleasant cities in Bolivia, colonial with a distinct infusion of student culture. Its tranquility was temporarily disturbed in recent years when it became the site of the controversial writing of Bolivia's new constitution.During their time in Sucre, students visit Museo de Arte Indígena (ASUR), an indigenous textile museum and foundation, working to recover the textile techniques and designs of the region's ancestors. Students also experience a vibrant dinner performance and interchange with members of the award-winning MASIS, an organization dedicated to educating marginalized children through teaching traditional musical forms.
Santa Cruz and the Tropical Lowlands
This excursion takes students to a drastically different geographical area of Bolivia, exposing them to the diversity of the less-frequently studied cultures of the tropical lowlands. Students may visit an indigenous Guarayo community, rich in agriculture and wood, where land conflicts are ongoing. Community members face decisions such as whether to stop growing traditional crops and use their land for corn to sell to transnational corporations for biodiesel.
By visiting Santa Cruz, students experience the largest and fastest growing city in Bolivia, home to a stronghold of the elite class, many of whom oppose the changes being proposed by the current Bolivian government. In Santa Cruz, students witness the stark divide between the country's richest and poorest residents.
Students have the unique opportunity to meet with leaders of Plan 3000, a conglomerate of poor neighborhoods formed by 3,000 families displaced by flooding in 1984. The area now houses more than 300,000 people with almost no public services, including potable water. Students learn about the conglomerate's grassroots efforts to improve their situation.
Also during the excursion, students visit a bio-reserve to learn more about issues of biodiversity and learn about the effects of deforestation in the Bolivian rainforest during a visit to the Lomas de Arena (sand dunes).
Carnival in Oruro (spring semester only)
Students in the spring semester have the opportunity to travel to Oruro, the folkloric capital of Bolivia, to experience its world-famous carnival, declared by the United Nations as Cultural Patrimony of Humanity. This spectacular parade of incredible costumes and magnificent music from hundreds of Bolivian communities provides students an opportunity to enjoy the diverse richness of Bolivian music, dance, and culture. Oruro's carnival is a unique celebration in which tradition, history, myths, and contemporary reality come together.
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Cochabamba
Language Study: Quechua, Spanish
Prerequisites: 3 semesters Spanish Read more...
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