Issue - June 2009

June 2009


Inside this edition: People are considered old when certain changes occur in their activities or social roles. Usually this happens around 60 to 65 years old. In different countries people are considered part of the third age; many people said that to stay in shape and to keep active is the more...

June 2009

Growing older, getting stronger

Christina Moore speaks to the Bolivian author Gaby Vallejo Canedo about being busy and successful until the end

Christina Moore
Projects Abroad - Volunteer
London - United Kingdom

We are retired from the system… but we are not retired from life,” quips Gaby Vallejo Canedo, who was born in 1941. In fact she and her colleagues, who are all in their late sixties or early seventies, are so busy that they are lucky if they get one afternoon to themselves each week. They refuse to use their age as an excuse to take a rest. In 1990 the seven women founded the only children’s library in Bolivia, Biblioteca Th’uruchapitas, which has since sprouted several other projects. The projects both support and are supported by IBBY, a Swiss-based international organization for children’s and young people’s literature. Meanwhile, Gaby, who is a well-known Bolivian writer, continues to write and add to her collection of already more than thirty published books, as well as essays, studies and other publications. One of her books ‘Hijo de Opa,’ has been converted into a film, ‘Los Hermanos Cartagena’. The book covers hard-hitting themes such as institutional violence, a dictatorship and human rights; and Gaby declares that the film is even more powerful.

Since childhood Gaby has silently rebelled against the structures of thoughts and behaviours of adults. Even now, as an adult herself, she strongly opposes the family customs and fixed roles for boys and girls. Seeing that the majority of Gaby’s books are stories for children and that a lot of her work focuses on children, I wondered if this woman, young at heart as she is, relates better with young people than people from her own generation. However, she asserts that she gets on with everyone, interacting with all different types of people through her books and her work. She has acquired a personal motto based on something that the President of IBBY once said at the world congress in Berlin, “an obligation of the human being is to have at least one friend more every day.” Gaby does her best to honour that obligation.

Most of the projects are aimed towards children and nurturing in them a love of reading, but another important program is concerned with “recuperating the oral memory of the elderly.” The team spent a few months in the district of Colcapirhua, a region that is rich with customs, traditions and stories, recording everything that the elderly there had to say. They talked about personal romances, fears, fantasies, family, traditional customs, remedies, recipes and anything else they could think of. Of the many charming stories, just a small selection were published in a bilingual (Spanish and Quechua) collection that was handed over in a grand ceremony, attended by the elderly contributors and their families. Hoping to attract attention to the project and acquire sponsorship to repeat it in other locations, the team have been reading extracts from the book at various public opportunities.

Through this, not only are they hoping to save the people of Cochabamba from losing a vital part of their history when these elderly people pass away, but also Gaby hopes that they will reinforce the fascinating interculturality that is present in this country. Through the arious projects and promotional work that Gaby and the team carry out, they are kept very busy. Her colleagues, who she describes as “people with vitality,” are all women who have continued to push themselves and maintain themselves busy throughout their lives. Around successful careers, the majority in the field of education and teaching, many have completed postgraduate degrees and most, like Gaby, have continued to write and publish work. She believes that work, reflection, reading and contact with others are very important for human beings. In particular it is crucial for the elderly, she maintains, because through reading educational material they will avoid the onset of Alzheimer’s and other diseases. Gaby adds that the vitality of her elderly co-workers is “not just in their body, but in their spirit and their attitude: they confront life. They commit themselves permanently with all the projects that we have and it is a lovely way of life.”

In contrast, Gaby describes a group of friends with whom she has maintained a relationship for a long time, meeting at least once a month for tea or dinner. She claims, “They have the appearance of having aged more than I have; their bodies’ look more exhausted,” and adds, “They do not read or exercise and practice things daily, so age has taken them more violently.” As for the “conversation, it is very limited and it shows me that their world is very small.” Gaby on the other hand has been travelling increasingly, always for business and to attend congresses, meetings or promotional events. Through her work Gaby has felt privileged to enjoy the thrill of travelling and experiencing new cultures, and now says that she intends to continue travelling as long as her legs maintain her. She is proud to tell me that two years ago she accepted an invitation to Korea for a congress. She travelled alone without knowing a single word in Korean and having just a little English to get her by, but she felt confident that everything would be alright. She has also recently travelled to a congress in Argentina, with Casilda, the oldest member of the team, who went to promote one of their projects, and is still there visiting family. Gaby compares herself and Casilda to a lot of her old friends who are “frightened of life. They haven’t learnt how to use their body or imagination or voice.”

Whilst she acknowledges that people´s lives are subject to circumstance and opportunity, Gaby also maintains that a lot of the differences are due to decisions made, and personal characteristics. While many elderly people have spent years hiding in their kitchen listening “to the terrible reality of Bolivia or the world” on the news, Gaby and her colleagues have, “changed our world and surroundings, for us and for others… We are happy with what we do; this is what full fills us. Then other people get excited about what we do too and this is the motor that keeps us going.”

Cultural Agenda

Teatro Achá

Lunes 01 – martes 02
Presentación Ballet Oficial del Alto

Miércoles 03 –Jueves 04 Presentación Pianista Zhu Pei Nian

Viernes 05 – jueves 06 Presentación Ballet Rojo Amarillo y Verde.

Salón Gildaro Antezana

Exposiciones de los artistas

8 al 20 de junio Efraín Chambi Ezequiel Solano Augusto Navarro Cristóbal Aldana

22 de junio al 4 de julio Concurso de pintura salón de invierno ABAP - CBBA

Salón Mario Unzueta

Exposiciones de los artistas

9 al 22 junio Escuela Raúl Prada

23 de junio al 3 de julio Ana Rosario Montaño Ana Beatriz Jacobs Ivo Ríos

read more ...

Archive Issues

2007 | 2008 | 2009