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Yesterday

Potosi´s Cerro Rico mine was the crux of Western industrialization, producing enough silver to bridge South America and Europe. Within twenty years of the Spanish discovery of Cerro Rico, Potosi became the third largest city in the world, having the same population as London and ten times as many people as Boston (Galeano, 20-1). Blood and bones of indigenous and African slaves fertilized the soil of Cerro Rico--three centuries later the extortion had amassed a holocaust of eight-million people. In the eyes of the Spanish, the Quechua and Aymara were ¨stray animals,¨ full of idolatries, sins, and bearing no souls (Galeano, 40-1). The Spanish ¨way of Christ¨was the means in which they would exorcise these devils from their sins, and this way of Christ was forced labor and new idols: the colonial "masters". They forced the indigenous to sleep out in the open on a mountain with freezing temperatures, waking up to the oven of the mines. In this scorching heat, they triturated in the mine´s arsenic and inhaled mercury fumes, which they used to extract the silver. If they weren´t working to their master´s standards, the whip and other forms of torture were implemented. To survive in the mines more than four years  was a rarity. When the miners revolted against these conditions, the Spanish quelled the revolt by building Devil statues--called Tios, because the local people were unable to pronounce ¨Dios,¨ the Spanish word for God--and making the miners worship these devils for their idolatry tendencies (Davidson). The river runs deep with irony.  The offerings to the Tios served as protection and wellbeing to the miners while they were forced to desecrate the insides of Kay Pacha, the Earth, who along with the Sun and the Moon, the indigenous worshipped more than anything else. Cerro Rico is a cornerstone that the builders used to create today´s economic oligarchy; Potosi and the centuries of oppression of its native inhabitants is the cornerstone that the builders refused. While the Spanish were the plunderers of Potosi, the British and its´ child state, the U.S.A., along with other European colonizers, were the main capitalizers. The Spanish used the silver to live lavishly, purchasing luxuries far and wide, especially in the European market and feeding the British-American manufactures. These states are also at blame for the travesties of the Spanish, for without a market there wouldn´t be incentive.

Today

In the poorest city in the poorest country in Latin America, thin cobble-stoned streets dissect their way through Potosi´s colonial-styled buildings. The economy is slim: mining and mining tourism. Cerro Rico sits above, deflated from centuries of pillage, watching down on the city. Ghosts of the Crown walk over the mountain wearing  translucent garments bearing the logo: neocolonialism. The silver and other minerals are sold for dirt cheap to the U.S.A., China, and Europe to be processed and by the time the same minerals return to Potosi, their value has increased twenty-fold. The miners do not touch the refined products that they bleed and sweat for--the complacent and affluent Western consumers are at the top of those who do.

Miners work up to twenty-four hours straight, suffocating in the deep caverns and chewing coca to stimulate strength and suppress their hunger to save their earnings for their families. Child-labor is common. In 2005, UNICEF, the International Labour Orginization (ILO), and the National Insitute of Statistics found 7,000 children working in the mines, some as young as six years old (UNICEF). These organizations broadcast an image that they are supporting the child labourers, but what they have done in Potosi, is created worse conditions. At the International Labour Orginzation´s Convention 182, two articles were passed: 1) prohibiting work for children under fourteen and 2) determining standards of how low the quality of work is allowed to be. These agreements were passed by entities outside of Latin America and other ¨Third-World¨countries. As the child-labor in Potosi often does not pass either of these standards, the children do not recieve suppòrt from the Western hegemony´s orginizations that are supposed to help children in such conditions. Whether child-labor is legal or illegal in Bolivia, it will continue to exist in Potosi, for that is the harsh reality of the global economic systems that are in place. The children, many without fathers, work the mines so that they can eat and go to school. For many children, there isn´t an alternative. So when UNICEF expresses anger at a Bolivian law that allows children as young as ten to work the mines, they are ignorant of the history that has created such poverty within a population that is majorly indigenous still.

Tomorrow

Providing food or a one-time stipend to the children will not end their poverty and hunger, it will only stall it. Only by creating an infrastruture in which child labor is no longer necessary will enforce such standards. This infrastructure is devoid of U.S. corporations coming and plundering a continent rich in resources. The next ILO convention could, perhaps, pass an article that prevents corporations from going into impovershed countries and creating monopolies--for example, Bechtel in Cochabamaba, Bolivia, where they privatized the water and charged prices that are unaffordable for a necessity of life, just to garnish profits. However, this is still thinking within the system. One must think outside of the system that works better. Don´t call it a utopia, but a distopia of the dreams of a few and the nightmeres of the many. (Pre-sanctioned Cuba, devoid of the image created by U.S. propaganda, might be a good place to start).   Davidson, Kief. The Devil's Miner. Salzgeber, 2005. Film. Galeano, Eduardo, and Cedric Belfrage. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. 25th Anniversary ed. New York: Monthly Review, 1997. Print. "Young Bolivians on Working in One of the World's Most Dangerous Mines." UNICEF. UNICEF. Web. 4 Oct. 2014. <http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/bolivia_58867.html>. <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Bmr5rdaemYk" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> [post_title] => Potosi: Rags and Riches (Regional Seminar and CIDL) [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => potosi-rags-riches-regional-seminar-cidl [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-10-06 06:59:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-10-06 12:59:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://wheretherebedragons.com/?p=110787 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 125 [name] => Andes and Amazon A [slug] => andes-and-amazon-a-fall-2014 [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 125 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 239 [count] => 131 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7.1 [cat_ID] => 125 [category_count] => 131 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Andes and Amazon A [category_nicename] => andes-and-amazon-a-fall-2014 [category_parent] => 239 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/fall-2014/andes-and-amazon-a-fall-2014/ ) [1] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 47 [name] => Survey of Development Issues [slug] => survey-of-development-issues [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 47 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 488 [count] => 57 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 34.1 [cat_ID] => 47 [category_count] => 57 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Survey of Development Issues [category_nicename] => survey-of-development-issues [category_parent] => 488 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/program-components/survey-of-development-issues/ ) [2] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 57 [name] => Focus of Inquiry [slug] => focus-of-inquiry [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 57 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 488 [count] => 38 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 34.1 [cat_ID] => 57 [category_count] => 38 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Focus of Inquiry [category_nicename] => focus-of-inquiry [category_parent] => 488 ) ) [category_links] => Andes and Amazon A, Survey of Development Issues ... )

Andes and Amazon A, Survey of Development Issues, Focus of Inquiry

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Potosi: Rags and Riches (Regional Seminar and CIDL)

Jeff Williams,Andes and Amazon A, Survey of Development Issues, Focus of Inquiry

Description

Yesterday Potosi´s Cerro Rico mine was the crux of Western industrialization, producing enough silver to bridge South America and Europe. Within twenty years of the Spanish discovery of Cerro Rico, Potosi became the third largest city in the world, having the same population as London and ten times as many people as Boston (Galeano, 20-1). Blood […]

Posted On

10/6/14

Author

Jeff Williams

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    [post_content] => After watching the documentary The Devil´s Miner I found myself questioning the significance of the Tio, an idol representing the devil that is deemed to live in Bolivian mines. Many of my fellow dragons and I instinctively established the Tio as evil because of his association with the underworld and our association with the underworld and negativity. However we found that the truth (as always) offers a more complex answer than simply good or evil.

The Tio can appear as both a manipulation tool and an intrinsically manipulative force that hinders Bolivian miners from communal and mental progression. In the late 1500s, Spanish imperialists devised the Tio to punish Bolivians for refusing to mine threatening that he would kill them. Despite this concept´s outdated conception, it prevails in Bolivian mines. The idea of an entity that consumes your soul wouldn´t necessarily be detrimenal from societal progression if it wasn´t rooted in the manipulation of the Spainards. However to some, keeping this imperialistic manipulation tactic in the mines keeps Spanish imperialism in the mines.

Another point of contention is that the miners can appear to be worshiping an inherently selfish force considering that in order for the Tio to protect them in the miners, the miners must offer the Tio valuables such as coca or alcohol. To some, this exchange ironically contradicts indigenous ideals. In the early 2000s when the transnational company Bechtel parterned up with the Bolivian government in an attempt to charge Bolivians for all water (tap, rain, well, etc), Bolivians protested and eventually kicked Bechtel out. Bechtel claimed they were there in the interest of Bolivians calling themselves ¨water gods¨when in reality the quality of drinking water meant nothing to them without Bolivian´s money. Miners worshiping a force that puts himself before his people potentially causes the miners to see themselves asa  degraded and pitable people.

Miners praying to this dark anti-god can also appear to betlittle the miners worth as it may convey that their work isn´t holy. Jesus alledegly can´t reach the mines because they´re part of the underworld, forcing miners to praise the Tio.

However, the Tio can also be viewed as a mechanism for empowerment and hope. Although the Tio is rooted in imperialism, for many these roots have disintegrated causeing him to take on a role indepdent from the Spainairds. Miners no longer associate their diety with subservient obedience but feel comforted when praying to the Tio. And if we condemn the Tio for being inherently selfish we must condemn numerous other omnipotent figures for the same. Christianity teaches that to have a strong relationship with Jesus one must confess their sins. Judaism teaches that one must follow the ten commandments to be a good person in the eyes of God. Islam teaches that one must give up alcohol in order to recieve God´s respect. The list goes on. Of course there are looser and stricter interpretations of these demands but on every level, one must offer something of theirs for some of their higher being. This exchange can even be seen in a positive light if viewed as reciprocity or ayni- an integral element of Andean cosmovision.

As westerners, we natrually affliate hell with wrongdoings and negativity. However in numerous other cultures it is simply just another world. One that the Tio might live in.

So, after many conflicting thoughts, I humbly conclude that there should be no official definition for the Tio. None. Nada.

Everyone´s experience with him will be different. A child miner´s experience will be different from a middle-aged miner´s. A middle-aged miner´s different than mine. And mine different than yours.

 
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Andes and Amazon A, Focus of Inquiry

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The Devil´s Miner Response for Regional Seminar

Moriah Kofsky,Andes and Amazon A, Focus of Inquiry

Description

After watching the documentary The Devil´s Miner I found myself questioning the significance of the Tio, an idol representing the devil that is deemed to live in Bolivian mines. Many of my fellow dragons and I instinctively established the Tio as evil because of his association with the underworld and our association with the underworld […]

Posted On

10/6/14

Author

Moriah Kofsky

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    [post_content] => Potosi is a beautiful place with a sad history and most likely a sad future.  Potosi was founded as a mining town by the Spanish conquistadores as it was rich with silver and other minerals.  They exploited both the land and the indigenous people, using them as the labor force that made Potosi the third biggest city in the world, but it was at the expense of the deaths of 8 million, if not more.  The Spanish told the miners that they had to pray to Tio, the god of the mine, and make him offerngs so he would be content and spare them their lives.   After the Spanish extracted and exported all the main veins of silver and other minerals from the mountain they left behind a metropolis of people dependant on the mountain for their livlihood.  The main economical problem is that the Spanish and the Bolivian government only exported the raw silver and did not create an industry, or any skilled labor force for that matter, that could refine the silver or craft it.  Two hundred years later, this problem is still an issue, and the working conditions have still not improved.

Walking through Potosi, I see a full city with an empty mountain and an empty future.  Families rely on a rutheless underworld mined hollow, so much so that every time before they set their hammers to work they set coca in the lap of Tio, praying he give them silver instead of injury.  But the Tio is only so rich; geologists say that he will have given all the silver he has to give within the next 5-10 years, and then he will drink his final fill of miner blood as he collapses.

Can there be a Potosi without a Tio?  Does Potosi have a future without a mine?  When I worked in a bakery in Potosi for a day I asked some of the bakers who also work the mines, and they said that they think not unless the youth is trained in skilled labor and/or some kind of industry.  They are not ignorant to the fact the the mine is running dry.  However, with the current job market in Potosi, mining is pretty much the only option that provides sufficient enough income to support their families.  Sadly, this means that when children from poorer families are looking for work they gravitate towards the dangerous mines.  This has lead to a controversial child labor law that, firstly, allows child labor and, second, offers child workers legal protection; with or without the law, the children will work.  However, with or without the law the children have a dilemma; work for a relatively steady income in the mine for the next 5-10 years, or try to learn another skill without knowing for certain that there is a pay off for their family.  For this reason, when I walk through the beautiful city of Potosi, I realize that nothing abuot this place is permanent, and I am sad for the people who have called it home.
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Andes and Amazon A, Survey of Development Issues, Focus of Inquiry

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A Walk Through Potosi

Rebecca DiSomma,Andes and Amazon A, Survey of Development Issues, Focus of Inquiry

Description

Potosi is a beautiful place with a sad history and most likely a sad future.  Potosi was founded as a mining town by the Spanish conquistadores as it was rich with silver and other minerals.  They exploited both the land and the indigenous people, using them as the labor force that made Potosi the third […]

Posted On

10/6/14

Author

Rebecca DiSomma

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    [post_content] => Founded in 1545 by Spanish Conquistadoras as a mining town, Potosi became the third most populated city in the world within a century of establishment, behind only London and Shanghai.  The world´s highest city, at about 4100 meters, lies at the foot of the Cerro Rico, or the Rich Hill, which was deemed to be ¨made of¨exploitable silver and gold. An estimated 2 billion ounces of silver has been extracted from the mountain, much of which bankrolled the Spanish Empire and allowed them to pay back their debt to the Catholic Church.   The absurd amount of wealth accumulated in Potosi during this time triggered the existence of capitalism and through the church, money was funneled to the rest of the world kicking off the European Renaissance and industrialism as we know it today.  The world would be a very different place if not for Potosi.

The Holocaust, which is largely perceived to be the worst genocide in human history, took the lives of an estimated 6 million Jews  during World War II. El Cerro Rico is famous for being the ´Mountain that Eats Men´, reportedly claiming the lives of around 8 million miners since colonial times.  The victims of this atrocity were enslaved indians or imported African slaves, and for centuries they toiled and died as a result of mining accidents or from over-exhaustion.   This is an immensely important historical incident that is seldom spoken of in most history classes I have ever been around, and I don´t quite understand why that is.  I encourage you to spread awareness about this too-often overlooked genocide.

After around 500 years of continuous exploitation, one can surely assume that the mountain´s stability has been greatly compromised.  According to an engineer by the name of Rene Espinoza who has conducted a three year study of the mountain there are over 600 entrances, most of which are now abandoned, and over 60 miles of veins that have essentially hollowed out this monument to the devastation of the Spanish conquest.  Rene also believes that total collapse of the mountain is possible, endangering the livelihood and more importantly the lives of the 15,000 miners who are contracted by the Bolivian government to risk their lives day in and day out in these dark, cold, and hazardous tunnels.    Despite measures to ensure the mountain remains on its feet, the summit sinks by a few centimeters every year.

We were guided into El Cerro Rico and immediately were able to feel the weight of the mountain.  Our guide was a local miner who took us into the vein where he and 10 of his compatriots work all year in search of silver.  Their earnings are based on their findings. If they are not successful, they are not paid.  And you can imagine that after 500 years of mining, the mountain is pretty dried up.  For this reason, fathers and their sons often work two day shifts with little respite in search of the funds that will keep their families off the streets.  We put on our rubber boots and ventured into a place where so many have suffered and perished.  About 100 yards into the vein, we stopped to pay homage to El Tio who is worshipped in this area where it is believed God has no influence.  We sprinkled our offerings of Coca leaves and asked that this menacing demonic figure protect us from the many perils of the mountain.  With every step deeper into the vein, I was enveloped by the cold and felt increasingly vulnerable, at the mercy of the mountain.

Our headlamps were the only source of light that we had, and in the shimmer of the light were the floating dust particles that plagued the lungs of so many who worked here. Silicosis is a disease contracted by inahling dust.  Almost every miner who has worked there for too long has it, and it pretty much cuts their life span in half.  I was strcuk that the miners did not wear face masks as some form of minimal protection from this horrendous illness.  I was hesitant to ask our guide out of fear that it might be a touchy subject.

¨Cuanto tiempo has trabajado en las mineas?¨ I asked him, beating around the bush

¨35 años. Entonces ya tengo la enfermedad en mis pulmones¨ he offered with an earie air of pride.

Getting the sense that it wasn´t a subject i needed to shy away from, i proceeded to ask him why workers did not wear any masks, and he informed me that it would prevent them from chewing their sacred coca leaves which fuel them, combatting their hunger and fatigue.  Talk about priorities...

It was a very potent experience that I took a great deal away from.  I encourage you to watch a documentary called ¨The Devils Miner¨which elicits the issue of child labor in el Cerro Rico.  If you are moved by what you see and want to get involved, here is a link with a message from the director´s of the film on how to get involved through the many organizations that work on the ground to fight this harsh reality.

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/devilsminer/howtohelp.html

Thanks for reading.
    [post_title] => The Overlooked Genocide of Potosi´s Cerro Rico
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Andes and Amazon A, Focus of Inquiry, Survey of Development Issues

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The Overlooked Genocide of Potosi´s Cerro Rico

Luke Frey-Wedeen,Andes and Amazon A, Focus of Inquiry, Survey of Development Issues

Description

Founded in 1545 by Spanish Conquistadoras as a mining town, Potosi became the third most populated city in the world within a century of establishment, behind only London and Shanghai.  The world´s highest city, at about 4100 meters, lies at the foot of the Cerro Rico, or the Rich Hill, which was deemed to be ¨made of¨exploitable […]

Posted On

10/6/14

Author

Luke Frey-Wedeen

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    [post_date] => 2014-10-05 19:29:55
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    [post_content] => When we walked up Achumani pass, we were given the option to carry a rock to the top as a metaphor for a burden that we had carried on our journey thus far.  When we got the top, we could give our burden to Achumani and continue our journey to the otherside of the mountain, another space, another dimention.  On that hike up, I wasn´t entirely sure what parts of myself I would leave settled on her strong rocky shoulders.  I didn´t want to leave my family, who I miss a lot, on top of Achumani, but I had to leave my understanding of what family is in order to fully embrace my homestay in Kaata and eventually in Cochabamba.  There would be new dynamics and new cultures within these families, and I wanted to fully embrace them.  I am a daughter, but in Bolivia I would have to become a new kind of daughter in new families.  I also left my friends behind on Achumani because in this place it is a time for new friends and not a time for missing and reminscing on old times with old friends.  In a sense, I left my old home on Achumani´s shoulders so that, for my time here in Bolivia, I can create a new home without creating judgements based on what I know from my life in the United States. This isn´t to say that home is a burden; I love home, but I need to leave it behind while I´m here.

So, who am I in Bolivia?  I don´t know yet, but I do know that I am ready.  I am ready to be a friend, a teacher, a student, a sister, and a stranger all over again and in a new way.
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Andes and Amazon A, Homestay, Focus of Inquiry

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Who Am I in Bolivia? (CIDL)

Rebecca DiSomma,Andes and Amazon A, Homestay, Focus of Inquiry

Description

When we walked up Achumani pass, we were given the option to carry a rock to the top as a metaphor for a burden that we had carried on our journey thus far.  When we got the top, we could give our burden to Achumani and continue our journey to the otherside of the mountain, […]

Posted On

10/5/14

Author

Rebecca DiSomma

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    [post_content] => Writing these Yaks, it is hard not to think of the audience. Who will see our shout outs from the field? Well, I have a strong feeling that all you readers are teachers of some sort. Parenting could surely be counted as a full time, emotion based teaching position, and the best friends are the ones that we learn from. So I thought you might be interested in hearing about the kind of teachers that have taken over for (though never replaced) you here in Indonesia.

Our instructors you can learn about from their introductory Yaks, and their daily impact on us is far to deep, broad, and encompassing for this particular post. For now it will have to be enough to say that every day we learn from them, these incredible people with their wild lives and beautiful experiences and profound wisdom who, with all that life in them, come down to teach us. To bring us up into a new, wilder, wiser world. To give up their lives for a while so that we can learn to live. Its hard to thank them enough.

As for the other teachers, well, get ready because there are lots! All of our weeks in Yodja have been themed, beginning with 'Islam and religious integration' (or something like that). Our first day we broke into this culture study with a whirlwind history of Indonesia by way of Matt, which covered canoes trading spices to china, the fall of the roman empire and the birth of spice trade with India, then Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic kingdoms rising and falling until finally the dutch arrived, with their Christianity and swords spreading slavery, science, and commercialism up to the moment the Japanese kicked them out in World War Two. Since then has begun the era of revolutions, democracy, economy, and the birth of a country. A country so big that tip to tip it covers the same distance as Alaska to Washington DC. And made up of so many islands that still no one knows how many their really are. I didn't even mention the ecological diversity, Wallace line, politics, and religion... Basically, we started off strong.

Next we had our first speaker. She came from a smaller town, raised christian, and found Islam when she was a teenager. She went to college in the US, studied economics, and worked there until 9/11, when it became infinitely more difficult to be Muslim. So she moved back to Indonesia and began to teach here at one of the local Islamic schools (pretty much all of the schools here have a religious affiliation), and today works with 15-17 year old students. She came in to share with us a personal account and perspective on Islam, what it means to her as an individual practitioner, a citizen, and a teacher. A few of us - Stephanie, Craig, Kyle, and I - were able to visit her Monday afternoon English class. The students were so welcoming, so smiling, so excited and motivated and bright eyed. Stephanie said afterwards that those kids could cheer up anyone. And it's true.

The second speaker we had gave us a more technical view of Islam. A teacher in a local Muslim boarding school, he shared with us some of the details of the faith, how it impacts communities, the culture of giving that it can create, how it began, and much more. That afternoon we visited his school as a group and were overwhelmed by waves of students wanting to talk to us, shake our hands, try out their English and see if they could understand where we came from, why we were in Indonesia, whether we liked their home country. We came together over small things, like Brad Pitt and Obama as well as big things, like how important it was that we, as Americans, were visiting an Islamic school. The spirit and life of the place was inspiring and infections.

Our third view of religion in Indonesia came from a professor in the Bronx who spent his Fulbright time working in Sulawesi and now comes to Jodja to bridge cultural divisions and hang out with street artists (Street art is legal here). He spent some time talking to us about religious tensions and the integration of tribal belief systems into the structure of major religions. We will certainly see much more of this as we travel outside of Jogja, which lives up to its reputation as one of the more accepting, open minded places in Indonesia.

Then, this weekend, we visited Borobudur - an incredible Buddhist temple only about two hours drive outside of the city and built in 750 AD. It is beautiful. Seriously. Look up pictures. The best part of this actually wasn't the temple itself. We traveled to a nearby Buddhist monastery, where a novice monk took the time to sit with us and explain about his religion. He walked us through the basics and described to us how he found Buddhism, what it meant to him, and then shared with us the sacred space where the monastery gathers to pray. The group was quiet as we lit incense and experienced the kind of tranquility that can only be found in a sacred space.

All of these were beautiful reminders of how different faiths can, in their own way, bring together beautiful people and create peaceful spaces. Our religion segment has truly only begun. As we go beyond Java the cultures and faiths will show even more diversity, and surely many more beautiful people.

The next week, last week, we began our section on the culture and arts of Jogja. A professor at UGM, the oldest and best university in Indonesia, came to speak with us about the ancient art of Shadow Puppetry. Through the knowledge that he shared with us he gave us a way to understand the deep meaning Puppetry performances hold for so many Javanese people. He even invited us to a show that would be given in English so that students visiting from all over the world could understand what the characters were saying. Sitting there, watching the silhouettes come alive before our eyes, it was impossible to deny that there was magic in it.

A Batik artist came and described to us the cultural significance of individual batik patterns, the history of designs coming all the way from India and China, how local people gave their lives to making just one pattern, and why each piece of fabric is beautiful and special in its own way. He then walked with us to the Sultan's Brother's Palace just a few blocks away and showed us the amazing Kris, daggers actually mixed with the dust of a meteorite, beautifully formed with this silver dust and carried by royalty for centuries. They're amazing. Google it.

A few of us met with the street artists of Jogja and talked with them about art, as a living and breathing entity unbound by museum walls with immense political and cultural power. Just a few passionate people with incredible eyes for beauty, the hearts of the people their top priority, the will to reclaim public spaces, and the intellect to do it well. More of this one to come - we're meeting with them again tomorrow night to learn even more about their community and mission.

These, believe it or not, are a tiny percentage of the teachers we have here. I haven't even gotten to our amazing cook and housekeeper who teaches us about good food just by smiling at us and feeding us, or the people in the street who smile or stare, greeting us, curious about us, wanting to share their world with us just because they know we're different, or oh our incredible home stay families! This is truly a moment in our lives when learning transcends any concept of a classroom and becomes constant practice, when our teachers don't need expo markers to change our worlds, when every second is an opportunity, an experience, an adventure.

Needless to say, its an incredible place. And I am constantly grateful for my teachers.
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Best Notes From The Field, Indonesia, Introduction to Philosophy/Comparative Religion, Internships and Independent Study Projects, Focus of Inquiry

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Teachers

Larkin Barron,Best Notes From The Field, Indonesia, Introduction to Philosophy/Comparative Religion, Internships and Independent Study Projects, Focus of Inquiry

Description

Writing these Yaks, it is hard not to think of the audience. Who will see our shout outs from the field? Well, I have a strong feeling that all you readers are teachers of some sort. Parenting could surely be counted as a full time, emotion based teaching position, and the best friends are the […]

Posted On

09/29/14

Author

Larkin Barron

WP_Post Object
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    [post_date] => 2014-05-04 15:15:27
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    [post_content] => On our second morning in Potosí, we paid a visit to its child workers' organization, CONNATSOP (Consejo de Niños, Niñas, Adolescentes Trabajadores). Originally we had planned to pair every student with a child worker, shining shoes in the plazas or selling newspapers on the streets, but because of last minute changes, we were only able to work in the organization's bakery for the morning.

As we split up jobs for the morning, I volunteered to sit outside the bakery with one of the child workers, Vania, to sell bread to passerbys. She was extremely shy, and after showing me which breads cost 0.50, 1, 2, and 5 Bolivianos, we resorted to several minutes of awkward silence as we stared out at the workers paving the street in front of us. Through our intermittent conversations, I learned that she had at least four other siblings, and that her dad worked as a miner in the nearby Cerro Rico (the Rich Hill). After much prompting, she told me that he would leave the house at four or five in the morning, and usually wouldn't be back until six or eight in the evening. I learned that her favorite class in school was sociales, where she would learn about different countries around the world. She had been working with CONNATSOP for seven or eight years now, and she was only fifteen years old. We eventually started passing the time writing different people's names in Chinese characters.

As Vania got her day's pay in ten or so pieces of bread, I couldn't help but think about what I had been doing when I was fifteen. When I was fifteen, I was told that my main responsibility was to study hard and well at school; I certainly had no responsibility to support my family. Why are our realities so different? Why do I have the opportunity to travel to all these places in her home country that she's not yet even heard of? Looking up at the Cerro Rico, the hill with so much silver that it bankrolled the Spanish empire for nearly three centuries, I was reminded of the exploitation and poverty that the indigenous people suffered, and how relevant that image still is today. I don't know nearly enough about Vania's family, but will her dad eventually develop silicosis and leave her siblings without a father? Will her younger siblings also have to work to support the family, or will they be able to enjoy their time off, playing in playgrounds and on the streets, like I did when I was younger?

Three hours is nowhere near enough to experience the daily life of a child worker. Even in Sucre, the official capital of Bolivia, when a few of us sold magazines for an hour with another organization of child workers, it was hard to grasp what life was like for them: going to school for half a day, and needing to work for the rest of the day selling trinkets and magazines in the plaza (to sometimes disrespectful tourists) in order to have enough money to buy school supplies.

I know I don't know the whole picture of the situation of child workers in Bolivia, but at least next time a kid selling gum or magazines comes up to me, I will not brush him/her away as hastily as I did before. Instead, I will remind myself of how much respect each of them deserve for how gracefully they are facing their respective realities.
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Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014, Survey of Development Issues, Focus of Inquiry

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La Venta

Cindy Liu,Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014, Survey of Development Issues, Focus of Inquiry

Description

On our second morning in Potosí, we paid a visit to its child workers’ organization, CONNATSOP (Consejo de Niños, Niñas, Adolescentes Trabajadores). Originally we had planned to pair every student with a child worker, shining shoes in the plazas or selling newspapers on the streets, but because of last minute changes, we were only able […]

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    [post_date] => 2014-05-02 05:07:45
    [post_date_gmt] => 2014-05-02 11:07:45
    [post_content] => *I am rich Potosí

Treasure of the world

King of all mountains

And the envy
of kings*

The first time I heard the name ¨Potosí¨ was in my 12th grade European
History class. It was our unit on the golden age of exploration- the age of
discovery and conquest of new lands, of the establishment of colonies in
the Americas. And in the section about the Spanish Empire, tucked in
amongst descriptions of Incas and Aztecs, was the mention of Potosí.

Potosí: a city of immeasurable wealth which poured silver into the coffers
of the Spanish Crown. Spain then used this silver to pay off debts to other
Europeans countries, and this influx of capital into the European economy
is credited by some as leading to the development of industry and
capitalism.

Spain's silver was also in high demand in China, where it was one of the
only Western commodities the Chinese were willing to trade their exclusive
luxury goods, like silk and tea, in exchange for. The silver from Potosí
joined the silver from Spain's mines in Mexico to journey across the
Pacific, via the Phillipines, to the East, opening valuable new trade
routes.

Potosí silver also was widely circulated in the American colonies, before
and after the American Revolution. It's thanks to the Potosí stamp on the
coins, a symbol made up of the superimposed letters PTSI, which due to use
eventually faded until it looked just like a superimposed S and I, that we
get our $ sign.

Potosí: a city which, at it's peak, was bigger than it's contemporary
cities of London, Paris, Boston or New York.

Potosí: a city which, when I first stumbled across it's name, I never
thought I would ever visit. I don't think I even knew that it was in
mondern day Bolivia, or that the city still existed and the mines were
still functioning. For a city once upon a time so famous, it has fallen
far.
But when I heard that visiting Potosí was an option for our Expedition, I
knew I had to go. It was a name straight out of the history textbooks,
credited with changing so much of our world, but a place I knew relatively
little about. I enthusiastically volunteered to be part of the group in
charge of coordinating the Potosí section of our Expedition. With 3 other
groupmates, I read up on Potosí and planned activities. Even when our
Expedition schedule got completely flipped due to illness in the group, I was still super excited for our time in Potosí.

But I have to say, when I arrived in Potosí for the first time early on Sunday morning, I was disappointed. I knew that Potosí had fallen on harder times, but I had still hoped for some of the splendor of 17th century Potosí that I had read about. Instead, Potosí appeared slightly run down and the streets were deserted. I huffed and puffed my way up the 4 flights of hostel stairs (not an easy task at an altitude of 14,000 feet) and sat on my bed, wondering what I would do during the next two and a half days.

Despite my initial disappointment, my time in Potosí ended up being eye-opening and informative. The next day, a Monday, the streets were filled with school children and the stores and restaurants were open. The initial sense of emptiness ended up being due to the fact we had arrived on a Sunday, and with the addition of a lively population in the streets the city felt much more alive. I also got the chance to walk around Potosí and began to appreciate the charm of the city. Yes, some of the houses are a little scruffy and there are no longer the streets paved with silver and fabulous mansions mentioned in history textbooks, but the city still possesses some beautiful architecture and pretty streets. After visiting the Casa de Moneda (the old national mint), the Convent of Santa Teresa (filled with gorgeous religious art and artifacts), and seeing some of the ornate old churches, I got a glimpse of the old Potosí.

But more so than getting a taste of the old wealth of Potosí, I enjoyed learning about modern Potosí. Potosí isn´t a city frozen in time, stuck in some textbook. It's a living, changing place. We got the chance to learn about the history of the mines and the enslavement of indigenous and African workers, thrown into the ¨man eating mountain¨ to quickly die in terrible conditions. But what would have just been an average history lesson was changed into something much more relevant when we visited the mines ourselves and talked with an ex-miner. Getting the chance to see how the modern mining conditions compare to the past and learning about the mining cooperatives and laws took a history lesson and made it life. People are still working in tough conditions, risking their lives to make a living for their families, hundreds of years after the mines originally opened. Watching a documentary on a fatherless child miner who entered the depths of the mountain to try and afford schooling and food for his siblings made working with NATS, an organization that works to support safe jobs for child workers in Potosí, much more pertinent.

I can't say that I wasn't happy to leave the breathless altitude of Potosí for lower climes. But despite the tough environment of Potosí and my many struggles up the steps, I really enjoyed my time in Potosí. It may not have been the shining city of silver that textbooks painted pictures of, but it is a city with a fascinating history and a people who face old and new challenges of living in the shadow of the mines. A great reminder of how history isn't stagnant- the past of Potosí and legacy of the mines is still very much a part of modern life for the people who live there.
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Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014, Survey of Development Issues, Focus of Inquiry

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Treasure of the World

Danielle Strasburger,Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014, Survey of Development Issues, Focus of Inquiry

Description

*I am rich Potosí Treasure of the world King of all mountains And the envy of kings* The first time I heard the name ¨Potosí¨ was in my 12th grade European History class. It was our unit on the golden age of exploration- the age of discovery and conquest of new lands, of the establishment […]

Posted On

05/2/14

Author

Danielle Strasburger

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    [post_date] => 2014-04-25 15:28:27
    [post_date_gmt] => 2014-04-25 21:28:27
    [post_content] => As my host mom in Asuncíon brings out my secundo  (the main dish after sopa-soup) with her empty-toothed smile, I can't help but inwardly moan about how big the portion will be and how I will need to finish it all out of politeness. The dish arrives-- it is rice, potatoes cooked with meat jerky, and boiled cauliflower. One bite into the rice, and it surprisingly tastes like home. Home as in China, and the familiar taste of a grain that is usually an irreplaceable part of my daily diet. The texture of each grain is full and substantial, and the rice has a fragrant aftertaste that I have not encountered for the past two and a half months.

It's strange that an environment so different from where I come from can remind me so much of home. As we were picking rice our second morning in the community, my host dad asked me if rice crops in China grew as high as they did here. I was stumped and could only apologize that I had no idea. When we had our charla, or chat, with the community leaders, one of them asked us whether we came from the campo (countryside) or the city. At that moment, I realized how different our realities were. Growing up in a big city like Beijing, I'd never even walked among rice crops before. And even if I had grown up in the countryside, I would not have had coconut trees in my backyard nor lush tropical vegetation a few steps away from my house. My host mom maneuvers and weaves palm frond with dizzying ease, while all I can do is stare and give up all hope of remembering which frond goes between and under which frond.

But as the tune of the pop song 'We Are Young' comes up on the family radio, as I look up at the tarp of my family's temporary shelter and see the words 'USAID: FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE,' and as I spot the Spider-man blanket being hung out to dry on the clothesline, I realize that we are not so disconnected after all. To think that my life at home is completely unrelated to and different from the life of this indigenous community on the banks of Rio Quiquibey is merely an illusion.

I have heard the expression that the Amazon is the lungs of the world. I have read about cap-and-trade projects in the Amazon, which allow large multinationals to buy 'oxygen credits' to fulfill parts of their carbon emission reduction requirements. Some argue that projects like these present a win-win solution: not only is the Amazon and the lives of its inhabitants preserved, but multinationals are also taking responsibility and measures to offset their damage to the environment. But is the protection of the Amazon simply a way to sustain the often-excessive lifestyles we (and I mean this loosely) lead at home? How does our actual desire to preserve the Amazon compare against our need to continue the ways of life we have become accustomed to? It assures me to see that the land of communities like the one we visited is being protected, but does that give me an excuse to continue the lifestyle I lead at home?

The reason my host family was staying under a temporary shelter was because of an unusual amount of flooding that happened a few weeks before we arrived. 12 families out of the 22 in the community lost their homes, animals and most of their crops, and about 5 families are now without boats--the only method of transport for a community that lives on the bank of a large river. Is it too pessimistic to speculate that such an unnatural amount of flooding is a result of global changes in weather patterns, caused in part by human activity? How can I really comprehend the gravity of my impact on the environment, when my life at home is so comparatively sheltered from changing weather patterns?

As I looked on at the first streaks of orange and pink that leaked through the morning clouds, as I gazed at the tall, spiny trees growing on the riverside sand beaches, as I spotted the silent outline of the distant mountains, and as I listened to the light chirp of invisible birds, I realized solemnly, that one day in the distant future, how easily all this could disappear. 
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Best Notes From The Field, Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014, Survey of Development Issues, Focus of Inquiry

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We Are Not Alone

Cindy Liu,Best Notes From The Field, Andes and Amazon Semester, Spring 2014, Survey of Development Issues, Focus of Inquiry

Description

As my host mom in Asuncíon brings out my secundo (the main dish after sopa-soup) with her empty-toothed smile, I can’t help but inwardly moan about how big the portion will be and how I will need to finish it all out of politeness. The dish arrives– it is rice, potatoes cooked with meat jerky, […]

Posted On

04/25/14

Author

Cindy Liu

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    [post_date] => 2014-03-31 09:38:34
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    [post_content] => Who am I

to be declared a burden

on my family?

 

Who am I

to be denied to right

to read and write?

 

Who am I

to be offered to a strange man

married, a wife

while my hair still is tied

in two soft braids?

 

Who am I

to have no say

in the children I carry

in the mouths I must feed?

 

Who am I

to be banished like livestock

to a shed away from home

alone

me and my newborn child?

 

Who am I

to stand no chance

in calling this land my own?

 

Who am I

to live under another's hand

submissive and unheard?

 

Who am I

but a Woman?

 

Many thanks to Aruna Opriety, a Nepali woman specializing in women's health, for coming to speak to us this past Friday.  She is an inspiration in her fight for women's rights.
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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014, Survey of Development Issues, Focus of Inquiry

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Who Am I?

Sarah Weiner,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2014, Survey of Development Issues, Focus of Inquiry

Description

Who am I to be declared a burden on my family?   Who am I to be denied to right to read and write?   Who am I to be offered to a strange man married, a wife while my hair still is tied in two soft braids?   Who am I to have no […]

Posted On

03/31/14

Author

Sarah Weiner

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