Issue - May 2007

May 2007

In this Issue, an interview with Ana Cecilia Moreno, how she wanted to break the image of elite dance. Caroline Amouyal met with Anysongo.

Read about the history of Los Tiempos our local newspaper in Cochabamba. Andean Traditions, always present in our more...

May 2007

The times of

By Chris Sherratt
Volunteer Projects Abroad
Bristol, United Kingdom
Advises professionals who work with people with dementia

Los Tiempos is a highly respected local paper for Cochabamba, but copies reach other major cities, and its editorial focus is national and international as well as local. It has had a turbulent history which gives a vivid picture of the life and politics of Cochabamba, and of how the two are connected.

This short history comes from interviews with two people who work for Los Tiempos: Sr Fernando Canelas, Managing Editor, and in effect chief executive of Los Tiempos, and with Sra Carmen Olguin, who has worked for Los Tiempos for 15 years, and has a sound understanding of the history of Los Tiempos as she has had several books with political themes published, and now manages the library of books and archives of past copies of Los Tiempos. Other sources were a pamphlet produced in 1992 celebrating 25 years continuous publication, and conversations with people I have met in Cochabamba (everyone has a view about politics, as well as about life in general).

Los Tiempos was founded in 1943 by Fernando’s uncle, Demitrio Canelas, a man with a mission to form what he called a “free” (as opposed to “independent”) newspaper, which would not be associated with any specific political position. He knew that this would be a difficult task as he had previous experience of opposition to newspapers he had founded: La Prensa in Cochabamba 1908, and La Patria in Oruro in 1919, both of which were closed violently. As the 1992 pamphlet put it, Los Tiempos came into being after some violent times, with the hope of a more peaceful period.

Los Tiempos was founded as a local paper for Cochabamba, but after 10 years it was under pressure from the MNR (Moviemento Nacionalista Revolucionario) government, and was ordered to cease production and then forcibly closed. Accounts of the reason for this vary – the 1992 pamphlet refers to Los Tiempos taking a stance against a “brutal government”, Carmen Olguin referred to differences over the government’s agricultural reforms (Demitrio Canelas had published a book that supported reform in principle but criticising the government’s proposals which, he argued, transferred land to campesinos, but did not support this with vital skills, tools or materials). Fernando Canelas suggested that the government was pursuing its own interests and lost patience with Los Tiempos for not supporting it. Whatever the immediate cause of the closure, it is evident that the MNR was leading a social and economic revolution that it was barely able to control, and it is likely that support from Los Tiempos would not have be whole-hearted. But whatever the reason, it could not justify the action taken: Demitrio Canelas refused to obey the order to close, but he and his staff had to flee from the building when it was attacked and destroyed.

The forced closure took place in 1953, and Los Tiempos did not appear again for 14 years. According to Fernando Canelas, his uncle Demitrio refused to reopen the paper without an acknowledgment of responsibility and compensation from the government. But following the death of Demitrio, his younger brother Carlos Canelas, Fernando’s father, took over, and re-launched Los Tiempos in 1967 as a national rather than local paper. According to Fernando Canelas, his father felt able to re-launch the paper in a time of greater democracy and improved economic conditions, though compensation was never paid. Perhaps it was a sign of renewed press freedom (but continuing political ambiguities) that Los Tiempos was the first to publish a picture of the body of Che Guevarra , who was killed in Bolivia three months after the paper was relaunched.

When launched in 1943, Fernando Canelas estimated, Los Tiempos printed around 3,000 copies per day. Now the paper is printed on modern machines owned by Los Tiempos, with a daily print run of around 17,000 copies, and though its main readership is around Cochabamba, copies are also read in other major cities.

Fernando Canelas said that the paper now reflects a position founded on free enterprise, but it does not take any identified political view. The editorial policy of Los Tiempos is overseen by Fernando and his brother (and co-director) Alfonso Canelas, who write many of the Editorial articles, but contributors are encouraged to express their own opinions in articles that follow the Editorial section, which clearly express a wide range of views.

When asked whether Los Tiempos is now free, Carmen Olguin said that it is indeed free, but she acknowledged that any newspaper has to be sensitive to the wishes of its current government. Fernando Canelas expressed a similar view, though, he said, perhaps not everyone would agree with him. Perhaps this is a realistic view of life and politics in Bolivia today, where so much is still changing, and opinions on the benefits of the changes are still so divided.

It is a space of fusion between art and sport, as shown by its name: Ar stands for arte and de stands for deporte. We created it in collaboration with gymnasts, because we all needed a place to practice our different activities. We are all very proud of this place, because we built it up almost all by ourselves (we even installed the light and the electricity alone!)...
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