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Famous Bolivians

César Brie

César Brie is a leading light of today’s Bolivian theatre. In 1991, he moved into a barn near Sucre, and formed a small group of actors who learn Quechua, the local language, as well as singing, dancing, how to play Andean instruments and how to achieve an extraordinary control of their bodies. Thus was born the “Teatro de los Andes,” where western and Andean cultures meet and communicate through the language of theatre. Since then, the troop directed by Cesar Brie has created 13 works that have been performed in the streets of Indian villages as well as in the major cities, following the idea that “theatre must be taken out of the theatres”, and taken to the people. The productions of the “Teatro de los Andes” are also seen and admired at festivals all over the world.

Domitila Barrios De Chungara:

A small woman with quiet poise, Domitila Barrios De Chungara is the symbol of the minors’ fight in Bolivia. To speak of the minors is to speak of the most important social group in the country - the group that made the last military dictatorships tremble on more than one occasion. What makes Domitila distinctive is that she succeeded in including the women, the wives of minors, in their fight. Because of her resistance to the military regimes, she was invited to various human rights conferences where her frank speech was heard by the whole continent. She is the author of a deeply moving book on the life of the minors, “Let Me Speak” which allowed her to spread her message of peace throughout the world. Domitila could be compared with Rigoberta Menchu, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.

Edgar Arandia

Edgar Arandia is an artist who describes through his paintings the urban scenes of people and the problems that they meet every day in the city of La Paz. He lets us see the world of the inhabitants of the Alto: the madmen wandering the streets, the rock singers or the areas caught in darkness, sometimes as an unsympathetic spectator, sometimes as one of the characters of this strange world. Arandia’s works show a nocturnal lifestyle, bound to the sordid, the perverse effects of modernization or to the constant invasion of Coca Cola, in a city divided into cultural, social and ethnic groups in constant tension. Edgar Arandia is a also writer. He is the author of two books of poems and he also writes about national politics and art in newspapers and local magazines.

Ernesto Cavour

Ernesto Cavour is the extravagant Bolivian musician, known for being the inventor of various instruments that have enriched the folklore of the country. He is also the founder of the group “Los Jairas” which allowed people as far away as Europe to get to know traditional Bolivian music. ? Among his most important inventions are the star charango, a guitar with two necks and an improved version of the zampoña which was popularized throughout the country by the group “Los Kjarkas”. ? In Jaen Street, one of the must-sees of La Paz, you can visit the museum of musical instruments that he has created. Exhibited there are more than 2000 instruments from his own personal collection and, of course, all the instruments created by this versatile artist.

Evo Morales

As leader of the union of coca farmers of Chapare, Evo Morales was always a stone in the shoe of the last government. Since the elections of June 30, 2002, he has been the second in command. Indeed, against all expectations, this former farmer attained second place in the national elections and almost became the president of the country. ? For many years he has been an enthusiastic opponent of the eradication of coca, a leaf that is omnipresent in Bolivian culture. In 1985, the government adopted Law 1008 to fight the narcotics trade but it focused particularly on the small farmers who produce the coca leaves. Chapare, the stronghold of Evo Morales, was strongly militarized and the repression only continued to increase. Since his victory in the last elections, this trade-union leader has constantly repeated that the fight of the cocaleros will now be moved to Parliament, where his party has achieved a significant place within the opposition.

Felipe Quispe (el Mallku)

Felipe Quispe is the leader of the peasants of the department of Paz and one of the most charismatic characters of the Altiplano Indians. He fights for land rights for the Aymara Indians and respect for the culture of his people and denounces the corruption of the political world. ?However his methods are often questioned: he organized the road blocks which have paralyzed La Paz and surrounds in the last few years; before that he created an armed group responsible for several attacks, as a resultof which, he spent 5 years in prison. On his release, he became the leader of the largest trade union in the country and formed his own political party which attracted a rather weak vote in the elections on June 30, 2002. ? Adored by some Indians of the Altiplano, hated by the government, he is often accused of racial hatred, his final objective being the establishment of an Aymara State in Bolivia.

Francisco (Panchi) Maldonado

Panchi is the leader of the “Atajo” group created in 1996. Atajo represents another aspect of Bolivian music, far from the Andean folklore of the “Kjarkas” or of “Jacha Mallku”. Panchi’s songs speak of the daily lives of Bolivians, particularly the Paceños, using urbane language and the rhythms of Jazz, Blues and Rock. He tells us the story of the lives of the children of the street, a small ice-cream salesman, the anguish of an “arapita” (a porter in the Bolivian markets) or of the work of the young people who, leaning out of the windows of the minibuses, must shout to warn the pedestrians of the route the driver will take. This description of the life of the little people who populate the streets of La Paz is always done with humor and simplicity, and thanks to these qualities, Atajo has became one of the most popular groups of the youth of Paceña.

Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (Goni)

Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada became President of the Republic in 1993 and was given a second term in 2002. He passed a good part of his life in the United States and is often called “The Gringo” because of his American accent. He is one of the richest men in the country thanks to his interests in the major mines of Bolivia. During his first term, he implemented the law of popular participation and “capitalization”, a process that consisted of opening to foreign companies the capital of some of the most strategic national companies strategic: oil, gas, electricity, the airline, the railroads, telecommunications… In this way, he has continued the application of the liberal politics that Bolivia has followed since 1985.

Jorge Sanjinés

Jorge Sanjinés is considered the greatest Bolivian director. He is a part of the new wave of Latin American cinema, which has established itself on a par with the new waves of western cinema and which is an expression parallel to the liberation movements which developed in Latin America in the sixties. His discourse was and is militant, which resulted in his period of exile to Peru after General Banzer’s coup of 1971. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Sanjinés films is his use of non-professional actors, such as the peasants of the Altiplano or historic figures like Domitila Chungara. His masterpiece “The Courage of the People” (USA: The Night of San Juan) earned him the title “The Eisenstein of Latin America”

Paulino Esteban

Paulino Esteban, an Aymara Indian, is a living legend in Bolivia. This man, originally from Lake Titicaca, has continued an ancestral tradition that dates back to the time of Tiwanacu: the construction of reed boats, the famous rafts made of totora rushes. From the age of 12, he has practiced this art, and his knowledge has enabled the realization of various expeditions across the Pacific and the Atlantic. Thor Heyerdahl consulted him in the construction of the Ra II that successfully sailed from Brazil to Morocco. The Norwegian archaeologist wanted to show that the natives of the American continent had been in contact with the cultures of other continents well before the arrival of the Spaniards. In August 2002, at the age of 60, Esteban and his family were involved in the project “Qala Yampu”, led by American archaeologists. This experiment showed that the Tiwanacu civilization had been able to transport stone monoliths weighing several tons on these boats of totora reeds.

Rachel Welch

Rachel Welch: sex symbol of the sixties. Her father, Armando Tejada, immigrated to the United States in the Thirties. Rachel Welch was born in Chicago and did not publicly recognize her Bolivian roots (which she had always kept secret) until recently, in June 2002. The Tejadas, from whom Welch is descended, are a very important family in Bolivia: Lidya Tejada was the only female president in the history of the country and was removed from her position by a coup d'etat orchestrated by García Mesa Tejada, who was, strangely enough, a member of the same family… Rachel Welch explained, on her first visit to Bolivia that in her youth her father hadn’t allowed her to speak Spanish, in order that she could integrate better into American society. Today, she is proud of her Latin roots, no doubt owing to the new respect that Latin women now receive in Hollywood.


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