April 2014

Students Mobilize for Animal Rights

‘February 25th: ADDA Bolivia (Asociación para la Defensa de los Derechos de los Animales) has, together with the University Domingo Savio, organized a protest in Cochabamba to ask the government to ratify the draft on General Act 057 for animal rights. The thirty students who had chosen to talk about animal rights for their university ethics course joined forces with ADDA this day to help with the important cause.

By: Heloise Texier.
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Brussels, Belgium

Demonstration in front of the government house
Photo: Heloise Texier

“Sterilize, don’t kill,” “Mistreating an animal is a crime,” and “Don´t buy – adopt.” These are some of the various slogans that could be read on the colorful signboards that students had prepared for the day. The time of preparation had been quite short due to an exam, but the result was good and effective as press and people were starting to gather around the group.

“It´s surprising to see young people interested in this subject,” said one journalist. Were the students there just for the grade? As the course is mandatory, one can wonder …

The day before, a coordination meeting took place at the university in order to prepare the event. It was also the opportunity for the students to meet Liliana Perez, the president of ADDA, and talk about her life combat. Since its creation in 1995, ADDA has tirelessly represented and defended animal rights in Bolivia.

After the usual teen shyness, and motivated by their professor Mrs. Norka Cuéllar, tongues started to untie and the students started to describe animal abuses they had witnessed. Sadly, almost all of them had a story to tell, stories that would occur in their neighbourhood or on their way to school.

“There are three dogs attached outside a house day and night, which seems to be abandoned. What can I do?” asked one boy at the back of the classroom. Another one would complain how his friends, for lack of knowledge “would treat their boxers as if they were fighting dogs,” or “would get dogs only for their notorious breed” without giving the proper love they deserve. Another girl, with her face distorted by the awful dogfight stories Liliana had just described, asked how she could sterilize her three dogs. In her twenties, she had already seen four deliveries of puppies. Another boy wanted to know, ”Can we call you if we see animal abuse?” Liliana answered all of them, giving her phone number, Facebook contact, asking for the addresses where animals were being mistreated, and giving tips and veterinary details for sterilizations.

Making the signs
Photo: Heloise Texier

On the next day and according to plan, the group of activists, armed with candles, signboards, and pictures, gathered in a circle in front of the Cochabamba government building. “I am very surprised and moved by the work they have done since yesterday. I didn`t expect that much from them in such little time,” said Norka cheerfully. Indeed, there were many signboards and very nicely done.

The students, together with Liliana, started the protest by singing out their prepared slogans “We are the voice of the voiceless!” or “Mister Governor, we want Law 057, law 057, Law 057! Now!” Some people passing by stopped and read, giving their approval. Others just disapproved. “Animals are just animals,” said one woman. “Why not unionize animals?” a man from his car shouted cynically. In any case, the protest doesn`t let anyone be indifferent, nor the press, when recognizing the ADDA’s president’s interviews.

Among the many qualities of young people are fearlessness, hopefulness, and determination. Following these attributes, the Domingo Savio students started to improvise slogans in order to be heard by the government. The purpose of the protest was to get the Law 057 ratified, and this implies a reaction from them.

“We want to see the governor! We want to be heard! Come and speak to us!” the students screamed, louder and louder. Encouraged by Liliana and Norka, the students came closer to the government building and screaming, “We´re coming in!”

To Liliana’s surprise and huge satisfaction, one of the government’s staff came out and informed the young demonstrators that three of them could enter to submit their request to a Governor’s representative.

Liliana, Norka, Cecilia, and the student delegates went in. After some difficulties to find the right interlocutor, the three animal defenders succeeded in obtaining a short meeting with Mr. Marcelo Elio, the President of the Deputies Chamber. Listening to their arguments, he made the commitment that “The law will go out this first semester.”

If the ratification of the Law 057 still needs to be tracked, the doubts anyone had regarding the students’ motivation after this protest, sure must have vanished completely!

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Sending a message
Photo: Heloise Texier
Removing Generalizations of the Mestizo/Cholo
It is sustained that this classification arose from the colonies in two ways: (1) the blood – literally a mix of indigenous and Spanish blood for having one parent from each group and (2) the cultural – for having both a Spanish and Andean background. In the first case, a mestizo would be someone with a mix of Spanish and Native American genes and is thus considered “neither Native American nor Spanish.” In other words, the person with a mix of genes would be considered a completely different race by the original two “pure” groups. In the second case, the cultural mestizo appears to be someone carrying both traditions of the “pure civilizations” (idiomatic, officially, and character) and who picks the worst of both traditions. In both cases, being seen as the mestizo-cholo – not pure – the collective minds of the locals regarded this group as “dangerous,” a sort of “third republic” with distinct blood and culture (both impure and contaminated).
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