Voces Bolivianas (‘Bolivian Voices’) was one of the initial five citizen media outreach projects to win a Rising Voices microgrant in July. The two-month pilot project, led by Mario Duran, Eduardo Ávila, and Hugo Miranda, organized a series of four bi-weekly workshops at an internet cafe in El Alto, Bolivia. In addition to being the world's highest major city, El Alto is also known for its majority indigenous population and the role it played in the 2003 Bolivian gas conflict. Though El Alto is the entry point to all international vistors, it is frequently disconnected from the rest of the country, both online and off.
In total, the El Alto Voces Bolivianas pilot project trained 23 participants how to blog, post digital photos, and even shoot video. One of the most consistent and clearest new voices to emerge from the group has been Cristina Quisbert, a university student who writes at Bolivia Indígena (“Indigenous Bolivia”). She was kind enough to agree to this interview over email.
What motivated you to join Voices Bolivian? How did you hear about it?
I learned of Voces Bolivianas through the internet. This was when they were organizing the Bloguivianos conference. I was interesting in becoming part of the project because it is a space in which we can express our ideas. It's like being transmitted over the radio – someone speaks and many people from many places listen.
What were your first impressions of Voces Bolivianas and of blogging in general?
I think that Voces Bolivianas is a pioneer here in providing the knowledge in order to enter and join the virtual world of blogs. For me, Voces Bolivianas is a bridge that allows communication with others.
Blogging is something new, motivating, rewarding, and dynamic that crosses barriers. You can experiment with colors, photos, words, etc. That I got started with blogging was somewhat surprising; I never thought that I could develop a blog, write texts, and document the new things that I am learning.
I notice that there are more men than women in Voces Bolivianas. Do you think that blogging calls the attention of men more than women?
In rural areas, girls are the first to drop out of school, the number of young women who manage to complete their education is generally lower than that of young men. This derives from the fact that illiteracy is higher in females than in males. With regards to access to technology and online media, the marked difference persists. I think that blogging is still unknown to many women in Bolivia. Being something new, not many people understand how it could assist them in their activities.
Why did you choose the title of Bolivia Indígena (‘Indigenous Bolivia’) for your blog?
Bolivia is a very diverse in terms of its indigenous population. There are more than 30 indigenous groups of which the Aymara, Quechua, are Guarani, are the largest. But there are other groups as well. According to the 2001 population census, 62% of Bolivians identify themselves as indigenous and over the years this percentage has increased. For me it is important to know about the identity of our ancestors. Bolivia Indígena, I think, is a name that reflects the reality of this country.
It seems that in the first month of your blog, you wrote mostly about the city of El Alto, but now you touch on a variety of topics. How has the content of your blog changed?
Indeed, at the beginning I wrote more about what daily life is like in El Alto. The content of the blog has since diversified to some extent. I have continued writing about El Alto, but I have also gone to include other issues that touch more about the reality of Bolivia and indigenous peoples who are in other countries. When I began this blog, I thought that its content would have more of a historical focus, but the topics kept building and it had turned out to focus more on everyday life.
You were at the Bloguivianos conference. What were your impressions?
To be at Bloguivianos was a thrilling experience. Before going to Bloguivianos I did not have any friends who knew about blogs. So, to get to meet other bloggers, some already experienced in this area, was like arriving to a house where every door opens to a new surprise. There I met various national bloggers like angelcaido, animaldeciudad, perrorabioso, urbandinos, reciclarte, palabraslibres, tevelision among others.
You also attended a conference focused on women in Santa Cruz. What was the purpose of that conference? Do you think that blogging is a powerful tool for women in Bolivia?
In September the sixth annual Feminist Bolivian Gathering took place in Santa Cruz. I found it to be important to know what women in other cities are thinking. I believe that blogs can be a useful tool for women to be able to show our experiences and our situation. But it is also necessary to note that access to the internet is a constraint for many people. While there is internet in the cities, it's still not available in many medium and smal-sized towns, and this reduces the possibilities of communication for many people.
What motivates you to write and share stories about your life and community on the Internet?
Blogging offers the possibility of writing what you think, how you live your reality. I was inspired to write in order to show what happens among the indigenous peoples of Bolivia. There are few blogs that write about these issues and so I feel compelled to continue writing about it.
Is there something else you would like to say to the readers of Global Voices?
Readers of Global Voices: I am writing from higher than 4,000 meters above the sea. From here we fly and we arrive to your computer so that you can know something about us on this virtual journey.
Update: Eduardo Avila has translated a brief video interview with Cristina.