Category Archives: Bolivia

Vibrant culture on the streets of Bolivia

Article published in Fönstret
November 2017
By Rocio Lloret 

Bolivia. The cultural life in Bolivia’s two biggest cities depicts a modern country full of ambition, yet deeply anchored in history, religion, and cultural identity.
It is 850 kilometers between the financial hub of Santa Cruz and the political capital La Paz, a journey that starts in a tropical climate and ends in the Andes, 3 900 metres above sea level.
Continue reading Vibrant culture on the streets of Bolivia

Obesity and malnourishment in the same country

Article published in Göteborgsposten
28 augusti 2017
By Rocio Lloret

Bolivia. In March this year, 12-year old Eva Vega Quino starved to death in the small room – previously a toilet – that she shared with her parents and five siblings. Her death shook the entire nation and made the extreme poverty many Bolivians live in visible.
-When she died we hadn’t had anything to eat for two weeks, says Eva’s half brother Alan Quino. Alan is 19 years old, but only weighs 45 kilos and does not look older than 14.
Alan started working as a bricklayer after his mum and stepfather fell ill from tuberculosis and anemia. He was the sole breadwinner and made the equivalent of £5/day, until March when he could no longer find employment.
-The money I made was enough for us to have bread for breakfast and bread and rice for lunch. We didn’t have dinner. When there was no more money I gave my siblings salted water and put them to bed, he says.

The family lives in El Alto, close to the capital of La Paz, in a house given to the family by the state after Eva’s death.

El Alto has thousands of migrants from the countryside, and three of its districts suffer extreme poverty. According to UNICEF, 46 percent of the children in the poorest part of the population are malnourished.

While the fight against malnourishment has been a state priority, overweight and obesity has not been viewed as a problem. But in 2008, the national demography and health survey pointed to an increase of cases of high blood pressure, diabetes, and renal failure, caused by poor diet.

Doctor Roxana Barbero, an endocrinology specialist, estimates that the increase of cases of obesity and overweight in Bolivia the last 20 years is comparable to the situation in countries like Mexico and USA, where the numbers of overweight are among the highest in the world.

-The last 10-20 years we have observed that 90 percent of the children that come to see us have problems related to overweight. Dietary changes and a decrease in physical activities are the reasons for this, she says and explains that fast food and soft drinks are the main culprits. Today, Bolivians eat more deep fried foods and the children are less physically active.

Article published in Göteborgsposten 28/8-17.

A macho man is like an alcoholic

Article published in OmVärlden
21 November 2016
By Álex Ayala Ugarte

Bolivia. Javier Badani Ruz, 41, grew up in a traditional family and was raised with macho ideas of what a man is supposed to be like. A new job and the birth of his daughters changed everything. But taking off the macho mask is like living like a sober alcoholic, he tells journalist Álex Ayala Ugarte.

“A macho man, to me, is like an alcoholic: He can recover but only if he is capable of becoming aware of his illness. For many years, I had macho traits, and it was like it was in my genes. My dad was a Don Juan his entire life. My mother comes from a very traditional family and took care of everything when I was little: She tidied my room, gave me breakfast in bed, ironed my clothes and really spoiled me.

When I met up with my friends for a drink, we’d always shout vulgar comments as soon as a woman walked past. When men socialise with other men, they often act like a pack of dogs stalking their prey: Everyone goes along with it. But the positive aspect was that I realised that my attitude was awful. And today, when I look at my daughters I feel a pressing need to fight against this. It’s my duty to fight chauvinistic behaviour in my society.

I think the real change came when I started working for Hivos, a dutch organisation that works with topics related to empower women, and also with things like sex work and reproductive rights. Thanks to Hivos I started reading, researching, discussing, and learning. I was introduced to admirable people who taught me the importance of fighting for women’s’ rights and their right to pleasure.

My shift in perspective has led to concrete changes in my day to day life. In social media I try to use a language of inclusion. I no longer tell sexist jokes, and I defend women if someone does something inappropriate. I’ve decided to not socialise with my former friends anymore. To them I’ve become that weirdo that doesn’t laugh at their tits & ass-jokes. My decision was connected to my new views and my change. Once again you can draw a parallel to alcoholism: If an alcoholic wants to be cured, the most important thing is to step away from those friends that drink too much. ”

Article published in OmVärlden, 21 November 2016. Full article (in Swedish) here: http://www.omvarlden.se/Opinion/kronikor1/en-machoman-ar-som-en-alkoholist/

Photo by Patricio Crooker

Her childhood is slipping through my fingers

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet
13 September 2016
By Rocio Lloret

Bolivia. If there is one thing Alicia Muñoz could ask the genie in Aladdin’s lamp, it would be for more hours to spend with her daughter Adriana Chavez, 8 years.

-As it is now, I only see her for short amounts of time and it’s spent nagging her to do her homework or not watch too much TV. I know her childhood is slipping through my fingers, but I have no other choice and I can only hope that she’ll one day understand.

Alicia Muñoz, 31, is a nurse working at a small clinic in a rural district of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia’s biggest city. Every afternoon she goes to work for six to twelwe hours, and two Sundays a month she works 24 hours in a row. For these past six years, she’s only once had a holiday.
Her monthly salary is the equivalent of around £200. With her salary she pays for food, clothes, and the small room where she lives with her daughter ever since her ex-husband left them to start a family with another woman six years ago. In the room there’s only enough space for two beds, a TV stand, and a wardrobe. On the walls there are photos of Adriana holding school diplomas.

-She’s very intelligent but also obstinate, because if she doesn’t feel like it she completely ignores to learn, says Alicia.

For the most part Alicia and her daughter only see each other at lunch. After school, Adriana comes with her mother to the clinic for a few hours as Alicia wants to make sure she’s doing her homework. But being responsible for over 20 patients means that there is not a lot of time left to help her daughter. A little bit later someone – the dad, a cousin, or a friend – comes to pick Adriana up whilst Alicia keeps working. Sometimes they see each other again in the evening, but usually it takes until the next day.

-Adriana had to learn early on to sleep over at different people’s houses. People often believe that her older cousin Cintia is her mother. I don’t have a problem with that because Cintia is a good person and very mature for her age of 26. But Adriana only wants to go to Cintia’s evangelical church and my wish is that she becomes a catholic.

Alicia would like to teach her daughter many things. She wants Adriana to know that you can succeed in life with a good job, and thinks that a mother should be the one to talk about sex and drugs. But in reality Cintia is the one who has the most contact with Adriana. She’s the one talking about values, teaches Adriana to eat new things, and tells her off.

-With Cintia she never argues but with me it’s the other way around, because I spend what little time we have together rebuking her.

Article published in Svenska Dagbladet, 13/9 2016. Full article (in Swedish) here: https://www.svd.se/hennes-barndom-rinner-mig-ur-handerna/om/att-vara-foralder