a brief update from La Paz

We´ve been laying low for the past day (a needed break), but we wanted to send a brief update about our work in La Paz (that is, the things we´ve done aside from meeting the president).

Since we started filming two weeks ago, we have been in close collaboration with several MST organizers and members.  One in particular, Eulogio, has been a critical part of our film and it is high time that we give him a nod.  Eulogio has been a part of the MST movement in Bolivia since it´s birth in 2000, and he has land (although still untitled) in one of the MST settlements, Tierra Prometida (which we have not visited during our filming).  He is a regional organizer and active member, and he has accompanied us on nearly every trip we´ve taken.  It is thanks to him that we were able to meet Evo Morales.  Additionally, he is one of the main ¨heroes¨ of our film.  He comes from a lowland indigenous background, and his parents were both slaves on a hacienda in the Department of Santa Cruz.  His father fought in the Agrarian Revolution in 1952, and Eulogio has carried on his father´s vision for more just land and labor policies.  He currently lives in a marginal barrio on the outskirts of Santa Cruz and has a long bus ride to the city center, where he has held numerous odd jobs trying to make ends meet.  Eulogio has been a good friend, a visionary for the movement, and our direct entree into the worlds of MST.

With Eulogio´s aid, we have interviewed numerous people in the land reform offices.  The first person we spoke with was Bienvenido Zacu, the General Director of Communal Land and the Vice Minister of Land for Bolivia (all government officials here have remarkable titles!).  Bienvenido was an organizer for indigenous land rights in the Guarayo Province of Santa Cruz, and he is now a part of the new indigenous face of Bolivia´s national government.  He spoke often of his humble background — he has a great deal of respect for the Morales administration for putting grassroots organizers in high level government positions.  During his interview, he spoke of the agrarian reforms as well as the challenges of dealing with the Santa Cruz agrarian elites and business community. 

We also interviewed Ramiro Llanos, the first legal advisor to the movement who now works for the national CEJIS office (an NGO that provides in kind legal support to indigenous people fighting for land rights).  He noted that, in spite of Morales´s support for MST, there are still many challenges at the community level that MAS (Movement Toward Socialism, Morales´s political party) has yet to address.  He is the only policy person with whom we´ve spoken who commented on the lack of critical resources in rural areas, such as the lack of medical clinics, schools, potable water, and other infrastructure.  While the governments of Bolivia and Venezuela have provided tractors, seeds, and other farm equipment to some rural communities, there is still much work to be done before these communities will fully prosper.  Llanos believes that MST leaders will need to continue to pressure the government to gain these services.

Our interviews with other figures in the central government reflected many of these same sentiments.  These interviews will provide a larger, political-economic framework for our film, but the everyday lives of the campesinos will be at the center.

Tomorrow night, we head back to Santa Cruz after another full day of filming.  Tuesday, we will be tying up loose ends in Santa Cruz as we try to gather photos and music to complement the video footage we´ve captured.  We pack up and head back to the U.S. on Wednesday.  We´ll do our best to update the blog and add photos as time permits!

Hope you are all doing well,

Niki, Kara & Emily

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