Issue - April 2007

April 2007

Dear readers, in March we broaden our horizons, searching for centers in Bolivia that have a commitment to the community. This edition, read about the Fundación Simón I: Patiño and the Hacienda Pairumani who demonstrate an unfailing commitment throughout the years, not only to Cochabamba, but Bolivia in more...

April 2007

Simon I. Patino Educational and Cultural Centre

by Caroline Amouyal

Did you fly to Cochabamba? If yes, were there red, green, and yellow books drawn on your plane instead of the inscription Boeing 747? And have you seen children in the middle of the bookshelves devouring the last Harry Potter? No? So, you were probably not flying in the Library Plane of Cochabamba. This original construction, located on Avenida Suecia, is part of the Foundation Simon I. Patiño. As well as the Library Plane, the Foundation built the Library Train, in Avaroa Park, all the more original, as the Cochabambinos never travel by train! Those structures both receive small children every afternoon, and frequently organise workshops of reading or writing of stories and meeting with writers.

Indeed, the main task of the the Simón I. Patiño Centre of Cochabamba, consists in promoting reading among young people. By the construction or the renovation of libraries in less favoured districts, the foundation aims also at spreading reading with children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Foundation also includes the centre of Bolivian literature and a library, currently in renovation, and has a special department for the promotion of reading. The centre of Bolivian Literature aims at focusing on Bolivian literature, especially of the 21st century, and thus organises temporary events: the forum of Bolivian writers, the famous conference during which four literary groups (coming from Chile, Peru, Brazil, and Argentina) give talks on their writing activity. Not to mention the active role of the library itself, with its collection of more than 5000 works!

Mrs. Alba Balderrama Ossio is the cultural coordinator of the centre of Cochabamba, her job consists in the organisation and promotion of all the activities proposed, which are numerous: exhibitions, organisation of reading workshops, conferences of authors, representations, dance and cinema festivals... "This is a very diversified job", she says, "We have to deal with not only the permanent but also the temporary activities of the centre, and we have to find original ways to promote the events." The foundation tries indeed to reach every kind of public, with inviting leaders of the political and cultural life to inaugurations of exhibitions, but also with establishing partnerships like the one with the school of graphics design or with the school of cinema.

To promote the cultural area, the centre publishes an agenda, with all the temporary events of the month. For example, they often organize music, dance, or theatre workshop during the holidays to encourage children to participate.

The festivals and temporary exhibitions meet with a lot of success like the biannual forum of Bolivian writers, the festival of contemporary dance, and the festival of music Luz Mila Patiño. The Foundation does not restrict itself to "classic" events but tries also to promote new arts, like the performing art, with the organisation of puppets shows or pantomime workshops.

But then, who was this ingenious Mr. Simon I. Patiño who set up the Foundation? He was not only a famous Bolivian miner businessman, known as the "king of tin", but also and very simply a man much in love with his wife, Albina, and who dedicated to her, in 1953, this amazing house, better known under the name "Palacio Portales". After a complete tour of Cochabamba, you must have visited this lovely museum with a beautiful French-style garden! And the highest pitch is that Mr. and Mrs. Patiño actually never lived there! Mr. Patiño, preoccupied with the future of Bolivia and the lack of qualified high-ranking personnel established there, in 1958, the Foundation Patiño, to provide the country with an intellectual elite. And he had flair, because the Foundation is now one of the most important cultural and pedagogic centres of Bolivia, also extended to La Paz and Santa Cruz, and diversified in other fields, such as scientific research, ecology and medicine.

So, as you fly away from Cochabamba, don’t just remember the lovely colonial buildings or the fantastic salteñas, but also the Library Plane that takes the children of Cochabamba into an adventure of discovery and reading…

Emilio Martinez
Emilio Martinez (Uruguay), writer and journalist, winner of the "Premio Municipal de Literatura de Montevideo" and "Premio National de Literatura Santa Cruz de la Sierra", author of Imigraciones de Arkham and various articles for Bolivian and Uruguayan newspapers such as La Union, El Deber and La Razón, in his short thesis...
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