Issue - November 2009

November 2009


In this issue: Justin Gouin interviews a talented young artist; The Fijate Project, a new initiativein Cochabamba by Petra Vissers; reclaiming the culinary tradition for Cochabambinas by Alejandra Ramirez; Octubre Azul, nine years after the water war By Petra Vissers; finally, the Molle’s presence dominates Cochabamba’s countryside by Walter Sánchez.

November 2009

You Cannot Cherish What you Do Not Know

The new ¨Fijate¨ project aims to preserve Cochabamba’s cultural heritage, making the citizens aware of the fact that it is demolished rapidly

Petra Vissers
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Utrecht - Netherlands

Less then five hundred years ago Cochabamba was founded by the Spaniards. In the fertile valley they established an agriculture production centre for the nearby mining towns. With the silver mining in Potosí at his height, it can be said that the mining provided the resources that made Spain a world power at that time and the city of Cochabamba flourish during his first centuries of existence. The wealth of the Spaniards is still reflected in the Mediterranean architecture throughout the city. ¨La Catedral de Cochabamba¨ and ¨La iglesia Compañia de Jesus¨ are just two examples of that. They not only give the city its Mediterranean and prosperous feeling but are also an important part of the architectural history.

However, that heritage is about to disappear. With the city growing so rapidly and no real laws protecting them, buildings are demolished over night to make place for fancy apartment buildings. Although there are, since 1990, laws protecting some buildings, they apply just locally and in Cochabamba just around the plaza 14 de septiembre, protecting only specific buildings. ¨It is not enough to protect only specific buildings, we need a system for the whole country that protects and controls our cultural heritage¨ Fernando García explains. He is the director of the mARTadero, according to him one of the most interesting places in the city. And he is probably right, a handful of artists managed to save the former bull fighting ring from demolition, making it into a place with art exhibitions, concerts and theatre while they managed to preserve the unique building. This is the vision Fernando has for more buildings throughout the city, 21 in total, ¨los puntos patrimoniales¨; points of cultural heritage. ¨First of all, people need to be aware of their heritage, the citizens do not know anything about it. So many unique buildings disappeared and nobody cares. But the thing is, you do not care about things you do not know of, so that is the main goal of the project right now¨. The project is called ¨Fíjate!¨ (Watch this), the first of three projects that have to make the Cochabambinos aware of their cultural heritage.

The initiative lies with the Fundacion Imagen, a group of architects in Cochabamba who aim ¨human and social development through the promotion of arts and artist¨. They are also responsible for the cultural preservation of the mARTadero and their goal is to make all the ¨puntos patrimoniales¨ into a place of culture. Fernando explains, ¨the whole project contains three different parts. First of all there is ¨Fíjate!¨, simply to attract attention, then there is ¨Siente!¨ where we tell people about the different buildings, give them more information. And the final one is ¨Vive! ¨, we want to make the buildings into places of art. We want to have concerts, theatre and art exhibitions in these places, like in the mARTadero. People need to start loving the buildings¨. If he is right, within a year Cochabamba will have an even richer cultural life, not only takes place in the mARTadero, but also in the ¨Iglesia de Domingo¨ or the ¨Casona Santivañez¨. ¨We choose twenty one buildings for this project, in reality there are over 150 buildings like this throughout the city, important historical architecture that we have to take care. But for now these twenty one are enough, they are the most important and the most suitable for this project¨, Fernando explains the selection.

Since the first of the three projects just started it is hard to say what the influence will be, but the reactions are promising. Despite this Fernando is not under the illusion that this project will be the solution, ¨the solution is multidimensional, we can do a certain part, architects can do their part, and the government has to do his part. We are doing our part with these projects¨, he explains. And it seems the government will do its part to, Fernando says. ¨They are thinking about a new law that will protect our entire cultural heritage on a national level. Take for example the mARTadero, that has been presented on a local level, but if that would be possible on a national level…I think it is going to happen, there is so much heritage and it needs to be protected. I expect a lot from that new law¨.

For now he can only see how the projects are going. ¨Fijate¨ will be in the city for the rest of November, followed by ¨Siente¨ and ¨Vive¨. So watch out for the red points in the city and take a look at the historical architecture. Pick your favorite, just like Fernando did, which is, of course, the mARTadero. The most interesting place in town, according to him, so you might want to take a look there to.

The Power From The Kitchen

Food represents an important and privileged role in the daily lives of people from Cochabamba. Who are behind the rich, varied, and important throne of this culinary kingdom? The Women. They determine what is eaten, how it is eaten, at what time, and with which seasonings. The kitchen is a space where women are able to display their excellence; in many cases, depending on family income, they manage their homes from the kitchen, meet their families, and define their routines (How many women have fed future professionals with their daily cooking or sold their food in the streets?). Their hands are essential in this process: women cook with both hands, mixing, kneading, tasting, and even dictating which pieces each person gets, who gets more, and who gets less. This practice has created the false belief, however, that women are more tactile and less intellectual.

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