Things You Find Out Along The Way

The mountain of Cerro Rico overlooking the city of Potosí, Bolivia
LA PAZ, BOLIVIA–At the time of my last writing, I was heading from Cochabamba to Potosí. This time, I’m in La Paz—in Nuestra Señora de la Paz. I arrived this morning by bus to encounter the snowed mountain peaks that flank this vertiginous city. More road and more mountains.

I spent the past two weeks in the city of Potosí and the small but mighty town of Uyuni. I spoke with journalists, chemical engineers, local union organizers and several miners who continue to dig deeper and deeper into the Cerro Rico of Potosí. I used to see  Cerro Rico as a living reminder of this country’s troubled  natural resource history.  That mountain single-handedly funded the Spanish colonial enterprise for centuries. But after spending an evening inside one of the mines, I now think it’s a more of a living reality. Today, it funds the meager existence of a small group of men who work in the dark so their children can live in the light.

These are some of the unknown complexities I’ve been learning about along the way. I guess it’s something one should expect from this type of research.

Just last week, I met a man who is quietly working in the chemical labs of a local university in Potosí. He’s trying to perfect the lithium-extraction process. He has been alienated from the “official” lithium “national strategy,” but believes that he can contribute and change the economic future of this country. There’s a lot of dignity in his work. There’s a lot of dignity in every Bolivian I’ve met in my travels.

Tonight I had dinner at a Cuban place in downtown La Paz in honor of my NYU friends who are on the island right this moment. Cheers to them and their projects.

Posted by Juan Víctor Fajardo – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU

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