A cargo truck picks up everyone and their gunny sacks of produce in Huancarani on Saturday afternoons so they can set up their stalls at Independencia´s Sunday market. Last Saturday, besides the definitive meeting at the Centro Sindical the weavers had to get their children settled and ready for the first day of the school year on Monday. The rains had been unceasing for over 2 weeks, and the hour and a half trip took 5 hours on the muddy dangerous road. Noemi, the nursing tech student I´ve blogged about, and her mother made the trip on foot in the same amount of time and arrived at my door muddy and soaked through. After a hot snack and strategy conference they headed down to the Centro Sindical for a meeting with the authorities. They were joined by 3 other Huancarani weavers and the discussion lasted until after 11pm. The President of the Organization of Women, Huancarani was also in attendance standing firm with her false accusations against me and Doña Máxima.
Heavy fog cloaked town on Sunday morning. The authorities had decided that I needed to present my report at the Centro Sindical public meeting. Doña Máxima and her husband had gone to the city to shop for school supplies. Her eldest daughter, Vilma, did an excellent job of marshalling the weavers. The meeting was to end before 10am because of another meeting at city hall. We arrived at 9 and it was almost 45 minutes before the doors opened. In 2010, only 1 weaver accompanied Doña Máxima and I to the Centro Sindical meeting, today I watched a dozen weavers lobbying for support as community Presidents and other authorities showed up.
Doña Narciza, the top producing weaver, has 2 daughters studying to become accountants in Cochabamba. She supports them through the sales of her weavings because her husband, who controls the income from the family´s cattle and crops, will not give a single centavo of assistance to his daughters. She told every authority she came across why she needs to be able to sell her weavings. She stated that if I am forced to leave town she is going to bring her weavings to them and expect the same annual income.
Coca leaf for chewing was handed out at the door when it finally opened. Upon entering, I noted the absence of other women. I pulled out my report and hadn´t read all the way through it before the meeting ended. In disbelief I watched all the men head for the exit. The women continued their lobbying, and it took another hour to get out of the building and climb the 3 blocks to the plaza.
It had been decided that there will be another meeting in Huancarani and all issues will be resolved including those which have been festering for over 2 years and have nothing to do with PAZA. After a month long emotional rollercoaster ride this ending couldn´t have been more anticlimactic. It appears nothing official will be announced concerning me, so I´m just hoping we can stay under the radar through this election year.
What was most troublesome throughout this ordeal was the animosity from women who I´ve worked with and once considered friends. Folks in the rural communities obtain all their news about a bigger world from the radio and the Bolivian President is not pro-American. That political attitude has trickled down to the rural community level. A week ago Doña Máxima asked me if it´s true that my country is violent and keeps starting wars in other countries. Thinking of road rage, school shootings, and the years of armed conflict abroad I had to answer to the affirmative. She looked at me sadly and said she hadn´t known that before. There is over 500 years of history of foreign exploitation of the local population. Letting go of, “why is this happening to me,” I imagined myself in the abarkas (local rubber sandals made from recycled tires) of the locals. From their perspective it was easy to assume that gringos work in an exploitive manner.
We have all played our part and it appears the social conflict is going to disappear again without futher fuss. Thank you PAZA supporters for your long term commitment proving that there are foreigners that work from the heart.
The Independencia Internet access is bad to having more bad days than good days, so the postings will continue to be sporatic. Dorinda Dutcher, February 2, 2013