Voces Bolivianas: Two Mile High Citizen Media (Part II)

In part one, we looked at the hard work and preparation of the Voces Bolivianas team before they started their citizen media outreach program in El Alto. Today we look at the fruits of their labor – that is, some of the featured posts of the 23 Voces Bolivianas participants who joined the blogosphere less than two months ago.

The El Alto pilot project ran from September 22 through November 10. At least twice a week the program organizers, Mario, Hugo, and Eduardo would select a featured post from one of the participants and highlight it on the Voces Bolivianas portal. From there, many of the featured posts were then translated into English and Aymara. Hugo Miranda also posted a weekly summary rounding up the latest content from Voces Bolivianas bloggers. (Rezwan already pointed us to the first two weekly roundups.) In his latest summary, Hugo notes that Voces Bolivianas bloggers weren't as active as in prior weeks, probably due to the festivities and family obligations that are a major part of Todos Santos, or “All Saint's Day”.

Still, many of the Voces Bolivianas participants were able to slip away from the dining room table to publish reflections and accounts of Todos Santos on their new blogs. Their differing perspectives of the holiday paint a complex portrait of El Alto's many identities: Catholic and non-Catholic, colonial and indigenous, traditional and Americanized.

Ruben Hilari describes what it's like to celebrate a Catholic holiday in a majority Catholic country without being Catholic yourself. He retells the story of a fellow non-Catholic classmate who, accompanied by his mother, visited a small mining town as a child during Todos Santos. Neither he nor his mother knew many prayers, but everywhere they went they were asked to pray. “And so my classmate – still just a kid – was then motivated to learn more prayers for future celebrations of Todos Santos.”

You can read a translated excerpt of Ruben's post by Eduardo Ávila.


Juan Apaza (pictured above) describes the Aymara perspective toward the deceased, noting that many of the traditions of All Saint's Day in Latin America were likely adopted from indigenous rituals. The title of the post, “JACHA AJAYU AYMARA”, means “Great Aymara Spirit” in the Aymara language.

Cuando los pueblos, comunidades y ciudades convocan alos ajayus (espiritus) de los difuntos, se produce un encuentro entre los mundos del mas alla y del menos aca. En la concepcion de los aymaras la muerte no es un fenomeno fatalista ,sino algo natural que forma parte de la existencia humana .Es el descanso ,razon por la que se recuerda su espiritu .Para los aymaras el “AJAYU” no va al cielo ni al infierno,su morada esta en la misma comunidad en la cual convivio a lo largo de su existencia y con personas conocidas que realizan las mismas actividades que en vida ,segun los objetivos que haya cumplido pasara a otro nivel de existencia superior o inferior ,claro en un mundo paralelo al nuestro.

When towns, communities, and cities call forth the ajayus (spirits) from the dead, there is a meeting between the worlds of beyond and here and now. According to the Aymara perspective death is not a fatalistic phenomenon, but rather something natural which forms part of human existence. It is the rest, which reminds us of our spirit. For the Aymara the ajayu does not go to heaven or to hell. Its dwelling is the same community in which it remained throughout its existence and is with friends who engage in the same activities as in life. According to the objectives achieved [throughout its life], the spirit passes to another level of existence – higher or lower – in a world parallel to our own.

Juan ends his post observing that even though supermarkets in Bolivia now sell plastic masks and Halloween outfits, traditional observances, such as visiting a cemetery with a plate of offerings, still take place in El Alto.

Alberto Medrano, however, is concerned that citizens of El Alto are losing their customs and traditions because of pop-culture imperialism from North America and Western Europe. In a post titled, “El Alto, Bolivia, Halloween versus Todos Santos,” Medrano writes:

En nuestro país, la expropiación de identidad parte desde las elites cruceñistas, con esencia burguesa, por ello son fáciles de copiar estereotipos ajenos y totalmente foráneos a la realidad andina, con iconos y símbolos, tergiversando la realidad indígena, con imaginarios de otras regiones.

In our country, the expropriation of identity starts with the bourgeois elites who easily copy faraway stereotypes that are completely foreign to the Andean reality. With icons, images, and symbols from other regions, they disort the indigenous reality.

Medrano implores his fellow community members to ignore the plastic masks of Halloween and observe the Andean traditions of Todos Santos. One of those traditions is the baking of tantawawas, doll-shaped bread rolls which are decorated with masks of young boys and girls.

Flipping through the November 2006 archives for Bolivia on Global Voices, there is no mention of any bloggers from the world's highest major city, El Alto. Now, thanks to the proud and active Voces Bolivianas group, El Alto is becoming a hub of Bolivian citizen journalism.

Though the first pilot project has come to an end, Voces Bolivianas organizers Hugo, Mario, and Eduardo managed to save $500 of their forecasted budget and plan on organizing a second round of workshops beginning early next year. By that time Rising Voices hopes to implement a donation system that will allow readers to show their support for Rising Voices projects like Voces Bolivianas to continue. In the meantime, you can keep up to date on the very latest news, stories, videos, and pictures from Voces Bolivianas participants at their El Alto aggregator.


  • […] November 2007 David Sasaki described the pilot phase of the Voces Bolivianas citizen media project in El Alto and its future plans. The […]

  • […] November 2007 David Sasaki described the pilot phase of the Voces Bolivianas citizen media project in El Alto and its future plans. The […]

  • Manena Cardemil

    Desde Australia saludo a mis hermanos y hermanas Sudamericanos.
    Necesito su ayuda. Me han pedido participar en un congreso de Celebracion de Vida y Muerte que se efectuara en Noviembre, 2009 en Cairns la ciudad donde vivo.
    A este evento vendran representantes de riligiones y credos de todo el mundo a exponer las tradiciones y creencias de sus culturas o razas referente a la vida y la muerte.
    Soy totalmente ignorante a esto. Muy avergonzada, pero nunca me lo ensenaron. Por esta razon les pido que me den in formacion sobre donde puedo encontrar informacion acerca del rito El Condor Paso, que segun me han informado, fue el ritual con que Aymaras, Quechuas y Incas despedian los espiritus de los muertos.
    No se si el nombre usado es valido, pero por favor me podrian ensenar acerca del punto de vista y relacion entre la vida y la muerte de los grandes pueblos Andinos?
    Con muchas esperanzas y agradecimientos
    Manena Cardemil

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