Issue - May 2008

May 2008

In this months issue interviewing Latti Ugrinovic about FUNACC, Ross Eventon brings us Lucid Dreams, Charlotte Mayhew visits our friends of CBA and tells us about English in Cochabamba, Walter Sanchez and the history of bullfighting in Cochabamba, Alejandra Kolbe facing global more...

May 2008

Bridging the Gap

Centro Boliviano Americano (CBA) aims to develop communication between the US and Bolivia

Charlotte Mayhew
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Ashford, United Kingdom

"Our desire is for Bolivia and the US to cooperate in the development of education and culture in the community. We believe this is the key element that has made CBA the leading institution in teaching English and supporting and promoting fine arts since 1957.” CBA’s prospectus reads.

It is fair to say that English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and there are many benefits to learning it. I spoke to Fernando Ruiz who is the manager of the administration department at CBA who told me, “English is one of the keys to success, everyone can resort to English to communicate English, be it Dutch to English, German to English, Thai to English.” CBA hopes that it will contribute to the regional development of Bolivia by offering its inhabitants the opportunity to study English. There are also similar centers in Tarija, Sucre, Santa Cruz and La Paz.

There are four main departments CBA is divided into: the Academic Department; the Educational Advice Office; the Abraham Lincoln Library and the Cultural Coordination Department. The Academic Department is responsible for training staff and monitoring pupil’s progress. The Educational Advice Office is a certified USA Education Center and provides information on scholarships and tests for those wishing to study in an undergraduate or graduate program. The Abraham Lincoln Library contains more than 6000 books on a wide range ofsubjects as well as educational videos. The Cultural Coordination Department organizes events in cooperation with the US Embassy and is in charge of organizing and promoting culturalactivities for new artists in Cochabamba which CBA hopes will create a mutual understanding between America and Bolivia.

Students are taught to communicate by reading, writing, listening and speaking. CBA offers an intensive course for those over seventeen, which runs for fourteen months, for three hours a day, Monday to Friday; a regular course for twenty eight months, for an hour and a half a day, Monday to Friday; and then specialcourses for children, teenagers and adults, which run for seventy five minutes. And it is decided between students and CBA howlong the course runs for. Ruiz estimates that around forty per cent of the students are over twenty one. The majority of their students are teenagers and children, which you certainly get a sense of as when you walk into the center you are greeted with noise of lively chatter.

Currently, CBA and the US Embassy are sponsoring a new program called the John F Kennedy Scholarship Fund, whichprovides 180 Bolivian high school students their registration, monthly tuition, and books for one year. It is intended for thosewho show a commitment to their community and those who study hard.

CBA works closely with American institutions like as the English Language Institute, of which the University of Michigan is one. As Ruiz told me “the year we had two teachers from the University of Maryland come to CBA to do some work shops for our teachers and had some advanced classes for our students. North Carolina also sends engineers and doctors to do volunteer work in Cochabamba, and we have the chance to send teachers to North Carolina every two years.” Also from North Carolina, we receive visitors who offer workshops, courses and exhibitions of their work in fields such as ceramics, photographs, dance, theater, sculpture, art, textiles and other forms of expression.

Created in 1986, the Cultural Coordination department is whatmakes CBA different from other language institutions. They organize art and craft exhibitions as well as contests, theater festivals, concerts, workshops, lectures, and courses on different areas, such as the Environment and Political Science. TheCultural Department also ran the “Meet Someone Interesting” Program, which among its participants which included a visit to the center from David Connell, the Second Secretary of the US Embassy who spoke to more than forty students on life and culture within the USA. Not only was thisteaching the students more about the US, but giving them a chance to practice their English skills.

As part of their 50th anniversary, CBA celebrated by inviting a Native American Dance group, Native Trails, to perform their dances in the Coliseum of Santa Maria’s School and in the patio of the institution. In addition to their performance the musicians spent some time talking with the students, teaching them about their culture. CBA were also behind co-sponsoring a series of concerts of a US Jazz Hip Hop group called AFAR, throughout Bolivia.

Having such a history means that generations of families have been able to study English with CBA. María Elena Herbas, who studied at CBA in 1959 says, “Without a doubt I believe that at the time CBA was the best option and continues to be so. The test of it is that my daughter studied English there and my granddaughters are also students of the CBA.”

El Acho

In the second part of the XIX century the most popular recreational activity in Cochabamba city, was the bullfight. It was so popular that the City Hall built a coliseum; this was located in San Sebastian’s hill (today the Coliseum is there). We do not know the year of its construction; neither who the architect was; but we do know that it was named the Plaza de Toros “González Vélez” although it was often called ‘El Acho’...

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