Day 69 – Quillacas – circles analysis

Day 69 – Quillacas – circles analysis

The church and the mountain the Guacho climbed in Quillacas.

The church and the mountain the Guacho climbed in Quillacas.

Located near the northern edge of the Quinoa Real heartland, Quillacas is a small volcanic town located amongst a vast expanse of flatlands. Known for its church, the site of a colonial era miracle, Salinas is home to ____ people. Economically people are farmers and merchants, being located alongside the main highway to the Salar (salt flats) and close to the “Quinoa Wall Street” of Challapata, where quinoa prices are determined daily. Woman operate small neighborhood stores and food stands alongside the main highway selling dishes such as chairo, a regional soup made of barley and chunos (dried potatoes) with llama meat, and chicharron de llama (fried llama). Though llama is featured prominently in dishes quinoa is not. The women say the quinoa is too expensive and they prefer to use it occasionally in their dishes, not daily.

The Circles of Sustainability study was conducted in Quillacas from July 24th to 28th, 2015. The town was a regional education center and housed an internado for the students living further away to stay at. I worked with the graduating seniors, a class of nine students. Of this class, three lived in the internado (school housing). This study was conducted during the weekday so the students from the internado worked with people in the town (they return home to their rural communities on weekends). This resulted in the sampling being largely of the people living in Quillacas proper, not the outlying communities. I trained the students how to conduct the surveys and had each student complete at least six  surveys, though some opted to complete more and two students left their surveys home and were unable get them to me before I left Bolivia. I conducted three surveys myself. In total the Quillacas sample size was 49. Though Quillacas is certainly an important quinoa growing region producing ____ tons of quinoa valued at $____ in ____, it was interesting to note that only __% of the people surveyed were associated with a quinoa producing/export group. I thought this could have been because sample was largely town based and the producers may have been living more in their rural communities, though I was told that in general few people from the Quillacas region belonged to producer groups. One of the few groups in the region, APROCAY,is made up of 52-families and works with Andean Family Farmers.


Economically it seemed the people studied in Quillacas were the most negatively effected by the quinoa market crash than the other committees studied. The people ranked Quillacas as “bad” in their economic well-being, market access, access to consumer goods, and the local and export economy. There was a satisfactory ranking in the area of economic opportunities indicating that though times were hard now, the people believed things could improve. This was interesting because there had been several economic development projects funded by the Federal Government over recent years, with none every being used. A new market area had been constructed alongside the road with a parking area, bathrooms and ample market stalls but never used because the people could not agree on which stall each person would use. There was also tourism infrastructure built a few years ago including a roadside tourism center and a tourism outlook nearby. Neither were used because of a lack of leadership. No one could decide on how to use these structures. There were also new houses that had been built in a public housing project which remained empty because people could not decide on a fair way to organize their use.   There was also an unused, commercial grade, quinoa processing plant which was built five years ago. it seems this lack of leadership and ability to work together is having a strong negative impact on the people of Quillacas’ well-being. Perhaps too, Quillacas’ extreme negativity was due to their proximity to Challapata 20 miles away which put them in closer contact with the dropping prices, which they learned of daily, or perhaps it was due to the lack of support the members received, due to their low participation in producer groups. A broader study which includes more of the rural communities and a deeper look at leadership is recommended.

The natural environment was also ranked low in Salinas, perhaps reflecting the challenges of climate change and recently yields which were lower than other years. People reported being satisfied with the wildlife, though the overall environment, climate change, drinking water and energy (electricity and cooking gas) access, a clean environment and recreational spaces were all reported as being “bad.” The negative opinion of recreational spaces is interesting to note since there was a large plaza in the town which was rarely used as well as a new astro-turf soccer facility being built with funding provided by the national government.

Like other towns in the Southern Altiplano, the cultural environment of Quillacas was more robust. People felt in general the community valued their culture, traditional dress, religion, and indigenous wisdom well enough. They were particularly pleased with their community festivals, family celebrations and language use with ___% people speaking Aymara and (insert language breakdown data).
On the average, people reported the social environment in Quillacas as bad. There were poor health services, education, decision making and trust. People often opted to travel to the city of Oruro, two hours away, to have their babies with some giving birth on the roadside not making it to the city hospital in time. In addition, the newly elected mayor, a woman,  was not well viewed by the town. She was from a rural community and seemed to be favoring her community with her staff selection. She was not often in he office and provided little communication or transportation to the town. There was not known about the projects or opportunities she would be working on. Though I met her briefly, she was traveling elsewhere and could not be interviewed during this study.


Quillacas was a surprise in that it had such varied economic opportunities but seemed to be making little use of them. The women I interviewed spoke of the lost opportunities with a wistful air and were hopeful for new ones to come their way. They voiced hope that they would be more successful with future opportunities though seemed unable to step forward in resolving their past development challenges. Many of the all male, Native Governors were present throughout the Quillacas study though they did not seem closely aligned with the town needs They readily participated in the Circles Study and helped to quickly organize a women’s meeting for later that evening, however the meeting took place the same time as parent-teacher conferences at the school, resulting in many mothers not being able to make the women’s meeting. In addition, in the meeting they challenged the women when the women began to speak about their extra roles as housekeepers and child care takers. The male governors also asked for more machinery to help with their quinoa harvest but did not seem particularly interested in the other areas of development or well being.

The leadership and gender challenges that Quillacas faces, in leu of many opportunities, are interesting to examine in future studies. In addition, including Uyuni and the Potosi region in future studies (which was prevented this time by political upheavals and blockades) will provide a larger data base and help to better define the “norm” in women’s well being in Bolivia’s principle quinoa growing region. Is the positive cohesiveness of Salinas or the start lack of cooperation of Quillacas more the norm, is it something in-between or perhaps something else completely different. The next study in December 2016 – February 2017 will be looking at these differences more deeply and also examining how people’s perception of their well-being changes over time.

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