Day 29 – Visiting Rodeo – a model town of sustainability and progress?

Day 29 – Visiting Rodeo – a model town of sustainability and progress?

I was supposed to stay with Martha for the night and go to Rodeo the next day.  Martha asked when we would be able to visit the plant and work on the quinoa varieties.  I said I could do it any time, tonight, tomorrow, I had a flexible schedule and was already there.  She said she had no time and it would have to happen later. I explained that there was no “after” – I was scheduled to go to La Paz to analyze my data report results before returning to the US.  That is why the visit had been set up in advance, it was a single opportunity.  I tried to not be annoyed.  I asked her if I should l go to Rodeo that night since several cooperative members lived there, a tiny town 30 minutes away by four wheel drive across some dry and not so dry river beds and sandy roads.  I could get a ride with them.  Martha was not sure.  I asked around 4pm and then at 6pm and again, after the meeting ended at 8.  By then, most cooperative members had left, but the sub alcalde just happened to be passing by.  Martha flagged him down, thanked me for my visit, and Mario took me to his home to sleep since no one else seemed to be around to welcome me to the community.

I had been invited to Rodeo, also by Pedro from FAUTAUPO who was good friends with Milan Cayne, a Rodeo resident highly committed to tourism and development.  Milan helped bring in the water catchment systems for greenhouse production, a sewer system for all homes so they can have proper flush toilet bathrooms, a nursery for rural bushes used to help combat wind erosion of soils, a solar powered communications tower, a new drinking water tank for the community, a comprehensive rotation system for the organic quinoa fields with properly constructed wind and erosion barriers, preserved pastureland for llamas, garbage collection and recycling, a retooling of used plastic water bottles for greenhouse construction (when filled with water) and pathway markers (when planted upside down in the soil and painted), and a village entrance gate and museum.  It was presented to travelers as a “model community.”  I was invited to see it as a model of “bien vivir”.

Though we had been in communication as recently at 4pm that day and several times before then, Milan disappeared upon my arrival in the town – perhaps to the party in a neighboring town.  Mario put me up in his house and I contacted Pedro to let him know all that passed (or not) in Puqi and now Rodeo.  Deeply apologetic he had hoped for different outcomes from the visits.

The sub=alcalde Mario was put in charge.  Somehow he managed to find he village key to the museum and the next day Mario and his wife Frida Huaychi Mamani were tour guides as we quickly enjoyed the view from the outlook, surveyed the different projects, toured the tiny museum of antique handicrafts and tools form peoples’ houses and grandparents’ colelctions representing the history of the village and within 45 minutes, took off down the road to Challapata/Salinas where we would depart.  Me to Salinas and him and his wife to Challapata.

Rodeo houses 60 families of which 33 are present year round.  The rest come in for the quinoa planting and harvest. Many farmers in the town are part of Sindan, a La Paz based Fair Trade quinoa buyer.  Mario recently sold half his 120 qintal quinoa production to SIndan for 440Bs a bag, 22% lower than the current market price in Challapata.  Like most publicly traded markets, timing is everything in the quinoa fields.  With prices still fluctuating, and now slowly climbing, it is always a trick to know when to sell, when to wait, but also when be loyal to the big buyers – the cooperatives that the farmers are members of.  Though the cooperatives often buy below the Challapata market prices because of buying contracts they have already made with foreign buyers, they are buying in large quantities at once.  Mario just made almost $4,000 in a single sale, enough for him and his wife to live on in a simple way, for almost a year.  It’s a trade-off and a gamble to sell a lot for less to one’s cooperative or a little for more in the local market.  Famers do both, balancing their responsibilities and commitments.

Day 24 – Reflections on a balanced rural life, Javier Medina

Day 24 – Reflections on a balanced rural life, Javier Medina

The most surprising presentation for me was one made by Javier Medina of the CIQ – the International Center of Quinoa.  He presented a bio-cultural model of vivir bien and gave solid examples of how over the past 7 years, he worked with 27 municipal governments, local non profits and local communities across Bolivia to identify development opportunities.  In this event, he was demonstrating the results that came from llama communities. The program was created from connections made at international climate conferences and sponsored by the Bolivian Ministry of the Natural Environment in cooperation with a Swiss development organization.

Javier, a former mayor of Potosi, assured the people, “Though I am an academic, I was born a llama farmer and will die as one too.” This got a laugh out of the people and helped them to relate to Javier better.  It also helped to remind me that we are all so connected by our history that even though we move away from it, it is always a part of us.

Javier started by showing the universality of communication in symbols, especially the symbol of the square.  The square is a principle part of the cross, the Bolivia flag of the countryside – the Willapa, the structure of cities (square blocks) and even our houses.  Geometrical structures, he explained are a universally understood, it unifies us.

Applying this geographical structure to Vivir Bien results in the following structure:



Boson/ energia



Fermion/ masa





Unidad, unico





Inteligencia spiritual



Madre tierra

Inteligencia ecologica





Cultura/ Software

Inteligencia emocional




Inteligencia racional



This diagram was used in Curahuara and Turco, where I am now and led to the development of the 1st National Congress of Ancestral Knowledge in Camelids as people realized their ancestral ties to llamas, the presence of ancestral ruins, pottery and mummies, and their own wisdom.  Carahuara de Carangas of Oruro is the llama capital of Bolivia, but has not been largely promoted as so.  Carahuara de Carangas is also recognized as an autonomous self-governing state, a new designation allowed under Bolivia’s new constitutional law.  This means that as political parties may change, the governing of this sector is maintained by the people themselves.  The leaders are locally elected without party affiliations.

Other llama communities that participated in development based on this model include Yunchara who rediscovered its history of working with llamas, Villazon who rediscovered the importance of their llama industry, Lipez who is now developing a sophisticated market for the highly valued, rare vicuna fiber – the best in the world, valued at $60 a pound in world markets, and Bolivar who is also valuing again its livestock and handicraft industry including its production of dried llama meats.  The gola of this model is to enable other to self direct their own development and empower them to reach out and help direct others.   Javier explains that it is this natural way of transmitting knowledge and sharing ideas that creates the life cycle – with bio feedback and learning be shared all around in a constant flow of information.

To better understand the model one first needs to understand the outlying structure of plot or story (trama).  Almost as in a game theory model, the four outside themes intersect with the four (internal) aspects of Vivir Bien, which also correspond to the Andean Cross: Consciousness, natural environment, culture and social (political).  As in Andean ways of being, there is a contradiction and complementary element to each part.  In the Andean language there exists a third invisible place between two sides, one that has no word in the English language to describe it.  It is in this invisible place where harmony exists between two differences.  Javier later explained to me that this invisible place is present in indigenous languages around the world and even in ancient Greek writings but got lost over the years in translation as Greek ideas were simplified into the roots of economics today.  He suggested the readings of French economic philosopher Don Dominuqe Temple to further understand this.  These contradictions, explained Javier, exist consciously and unconsciously in each of us. Intuitively I felt I could understand the invisible space between two side as a pause, an open area where both can exist together without conflict as they are.  It felt like a meditation.

The first plot to look at is the one of the interior and the exterior, explained Javier.  The interior is the part of life that takes place inside of us.  It has energy and often is mired with confusion as the energy pushes us forward and we are unsure of paths to take and where to go.  The exterior is a place of expansion however, such as in Einstein’s theory of mass, it is concrete, solid and dispersed in ever changing ways.  It does not expend, but its form changes creating ore of one thing and less of another, etc. but form a single, constant source.  So in between our own driving energy and the everchanging but constant world outside is a place where both exist in contradiction and peace.  Javier suggested the writings of Ken Wilber a US based transpersonal phycologist, to further explore these ideas.

The other plot of One (UN) and Pair (PAR) refer to that of the individual and the community; the single aspect and that of many (diversity); in other terms, pach-a (earth) and ma-ya (biodiversity).  Again between the value of one and the needs of the community exist together with a space in the center for both.  It reminds me of Celia’s comment about quinoa and how it created conflict, an internal fight, where people had to choose between planting more land their children and leaving land open for nature.

Now crossing each plot with the themes in the center brings about a greater understanding of each and where one’s potential lies in balance. Menta is about spiritual intelligence: the shared stories of place, places and items of spiritual significance and ceremony.  Madre tierra (mother earth) is about ecological intelligence – how the environment is cared for, protected, developed – in balanced, sustainable ways. Cultural Intelligence are the learned programs.  It is equated with emotional intelligence and refers to the learned traditions and beliefs that are taught (downloaded).  While the state is the rational intelligence, the hardware.  This is where the national intelligence is stored.  It is what is saleable, what can be produced and includes manual labor.  It is present in municipalities.  As each of these 4 areas are crossed with their corresponding plot, new ways of understanding and connection arise both individually and collectively, internally and externally.

This exercise is what Javier did with the team of elected officials, development organizations and community members in reference to their communities to create what he calls, a “system of living” that transcends the colonial paradigm (of ownership and earnings) and awakens communities.  I look forward to further exploring this more with my own Landmark College community and Windham county towns.

Day 23 – A sustainable development paradigm that works:  Vivir Bien.

Day 23 – A sustainable development paradigm that works:  Vivir Bien.

A father daughter team, Crispin and Selina Quispe shared their experience of living in “vivir bien” the Andean paradigm for sustainable development.  Vivir bien, explained Crispin is living in balance with the animals and nature around them.  It starts with knowing who you are, your history and identity – this knowledge lets you know your role in life he explained.

“We all have a role in our life,” he stated, “we forget this.”

“People talk about Vivir Bien,” further stated Crispin, “but it’s just in adjectives.”  He went on to clarify how Vivir Bien is more than just an abstract term.  It’s a future lived with no hierarchy he explained.  It is a shared life in a community with natural responsibilities which manifest in complimentary and reciprocity – the sharing of resources and returning of favors.  He criticized how people view their domestic animals as more important than other animals, blaming it on ingrained colonial thinking.  He explained that they are creating a hierarchy of one animal being more important than another because of its economic benefits.  For example, people will hunt animals that do not have an economic benefit, such as a fox, in order to preserve those that do, such as a llama.  He stated that these ideas came from the colonial era and are a part of Vivir Bien, the original way of thinking of the ancestors, and that we should forget them.  Some people nodded in agreement while others waiting in silence to see what would come next.  All have been well versed in Vivir Bien which is now in the Bolivian constitution and is being used as a basis for country-wide development decisions though it still exists more in theory than practice.

Selina appeared to be about 24 and shared her experience of growing up in harmony with the natural world in Vivir Bien.  She explained that her family lived near a highway that crossed their rural lands.  Often injured wild animals would come to her when they needed her help and she would tend to them the best she could.  She explained that she would help the fox equally as she would help the llama, though the fox is considered a llama predator and pest.  She explained that when one respects the animals, they will respect you back.  Selina claims that even maintain lions have been present in her llama lands, but they are able to live together without much conflict.   She explained how there are many ways to live and that life has a spiritual village shared with all, not just a cultural one that is created for its members.

“One can live for money in a capitalist environment, or live for the people in a communist environment, with vivir bien, we live for life.” Stated Selina.

She explained how water, not money is the provider of life and that like the vicuna and llama, one needs to learn to live together in harmony.  She explains how the two are both sacred animals, and even though the llama brings money to the herder and the vicuna does not, they are equal in their value in that both have life.

“If you only value money,” explained Selina, “then you lose the value of the life.”

To emphasize this, Selina talked about the “internal fight” that the quinoa is provoking.

“Quinoa is destroying mother earth.” Stated Selina in reference to the quinoa boom of 2015 where thousands of acres of grazing lands were plowed up for quinoa production and financial gain.

The internal fight is the family’s need to. “plant (quinoa) for their children while also leaving (resources) for nature.  It’s a balance.

An audience member asked Celina about her views on climate change.  “Climatic changes, “ she replied,” happen all of the time.  “That’s what climates do, they change.  In our history there have been times of even more changes than now.”  Selina went on to explain, how when living close to the land and in harmony, you also learn how to recognize and work with these changes, whether made by man or nature.  She felt that it is part of being connected to the earth and is the way the ancestors survived and how we too can survive.

I asked her about her views on technology, as we were sharing these ideas via a powerpoint slide of her community, communicating via smart phones and arriving in modern transportation: cars, buses and trucks.  She explained that it was all a balance.  As with the natural world as well.  When we live in balance, she explained, we learn to share but not to distract or take away.  For example, she sees phones as being in balance with the sharing of information and connecting people and ideas, but moving out of balance when this information, or games are used to distract or take people away from their present lives or communities.

The audience showed a lot of support for her ideas.  As Vivir Bien is still more of an aspiration at the moment, it was refreshing for them to hear some more practical ways of how it is understood.  Especially from Celina, a younger member of the community.