The Many Faces of Santa Cruz

Yesterday was an exciting day.  We got a lot done, but did a lot of running around in the meantime.  Our plans seem to change minute by minute.  In the morning, we got on a microbus headed for an MST organizer’s house, but had a change of plans (one of many) within about five minutes.  We leapt off of the micro (sometimes they sort of stop), dashed across the street, and caught a different micro headed in the other direction.  When that micro was moving too slow, we leapt off of that one and hailed a taxi.  Somehow, between loud cell phone conversations, we ended up at CEJIS, a legal office that provides in-kind support for land reform efforts.  We walked in, walked out, and jumped into another taxi.  Somehow, we found our way to Evo Morales’s presidential house in Santa Cruz, where we interviewed the Official MAS (Movement Toward Socialism – the political party in charge) Representative of the city, who serves in the Morales administration.  She was great – she has been involved with MAS and CEJIS for years and she had a great deal of information to share.  She is working to connect us to national government leaders in La Paz (our fingers are crossed for a short meeting with el Presidente) for our visit next week.  By this time, it was late morning and we headed back to CEJIS, where we did two short interviews.

 

Around 1:00 pm, we got back on track with our original plans and caught a micro that took us out to El Plan Tres Mil, a poor community on the outskirts of Santa Cruz, where one of the MST organizers lives.  We were able to get some footage from the window of the bus, which we’ll use to show the dramatic contrasts between downtown Santa Cruz and the unpaved streets of El Plan.  We ate lunch in the mercado at El Plan (pollo y arroz) and walked through the community.  We filmed the organizer during the walk, and he narrated as we passed different sites.  At his house, we were able to hear his stories about his family – his parents were slaves and his father was part of the Agrarian Revolution in the 1950s.  While many in El Plan rent the land that they live on, he and his family have managed to purchase their plot and build a three room house where they (he and his children, and some grandchildren) live together.  Many who live in El Plan do not have access to basic infrastructure – some do not have running water, all of the streets are rutted and unpaved, and there are major drainage problems throughout the community.  During our first visit to El Plan earlier this week, another MST organizer told us, as we walked from the bus to our host’s home, “This is the poverty of my country.”  Kara took lots of photos during our visit, particularly of the organizer’s grandson, who was wearing a Superman shirt and rubber police boots.  She also got many shots of his home and family.  Everyone was very warm and welcoming, and we will be spending more time with them during the upcoming week.

Later in the afternoon, we filmed in and around downtown Santa Cruz.  While in the plaza, we filmed Niki as she spoke to one of the armed guards about people’s right to demonstrate in front of the mayoral palace.  The guard told us that, of course, anyone can demonstrate on the plaza.  MST has been prohibited from doing so, however, and one organizer was brutally beaten there when he went to make a formal statement on the organization’s behalf.  We filmed and photographed lots of interesting political graffiti (pro and anti Evo, pro and anti autonomy for Santa Cruz, etc.), and on the way home we were lucky enough to have a taxi driver with a good sense of humor, who drove very slowly so we could film out the window.

 

We did more filming downtown today, and we head out to another MST settlement in the countryside tomorrow.  We will write more when we return in a few days.

 

Hugs,

Emily, Kara, &Niki

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