Biblioworks Wk 7 - Tarabuco

Trip Start Dec 06, 2010
Trip End Mar 31, 2011

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Where I stayed
Santa Cecelia Inn

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Friday, February 18, 2011

On the Wednesday after the opening of the Tomina library, Chris and Pat went back to the village of  Yamparaez to put up the newly-painted library sign and to rewire the library so that it has more light. Gail, Roxana and I took a microbus to Tarabuco, 2 hours away, to meet the brand new librarian, find a good place to set up the puppet theatre for the puppet show, and to make arrangements for our puppet workshop. We knew that we would be returning to Tarabuco a few days later to actually do the workshop and puppet show.

Before we went, all we knew about Tarabuco was that on every Sunday morning, buses leave from the Central Park in Sucre to go to the village of Tarabuco, which is high up in the mountains (10,807' or 3294m). Yampara families also arrive much earlier each Sunday morning from their rural communities to sell their products in the big, Tarabuco market. The people exchange and buy food, agricultural products, clothing and animals and sell beautiful weavings to tourists. We had heard that we couldn't miss seeing a bizarre statue in the square - a Tarabucan warrior holding up a heart that he had just torn from the chest of a Spaniard who is laying at his feet. Hmmm

 We also read the following blurb about the library in Tarabuco in our Volunteer Handbook:

"Tarabuco Biblioteca  - The opening of the Municipal library in Tarabuco made it the second Biblioworks library after Morado K'asa. While local authorities worked with Biblioworks to assist in the opening of the library, they quickly withdrew their support. There was a lot of convincing to do with the mayor who was more concerned with projects focusing on agriculture and production
rather than education.

Biblioworks and a few local teachers put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears in Tarabuco. Now, with a new and motivated librarian on the way to being a great library. There is a daily average attendance of 80 children, teen-agers and teachers and the mayor's office has been supportive, purchasing books, a computer, a new desk for the librarian and other necessary materials."

We discovered that on Wednesdays, Tarabuco is not a bustling market town. Actually it is a quiet town, looking for business. The library is very tiny compared to the other libraries that we have seen. Because it is so small, Matt is looking for a new space that would accommodate the many people who like to use it.

The new librarian is a young lady who seemed to be very keen and excited about starting her job. She was very helpful, showing us around the town and taking us to meet the local elementary school principal.We could not figure out how or where we were going to the puppet theatre in the library so we checked out a space in the elementary school. It is a beautiful school with a great 'auditorium' and the principal was thrilled to host us. She also wanted all of her students, 300 or 400 kids, to see the puppet show. So, when we come back to Tarabuco, we'll do it for them. 

Lunch was fun. The owner of the restaurant that we were in, insisted that while we were waiting for her to prepare lunch, we try on some of her traditional Tarabucan clothes. Well, we looked pretty cool, especially wearing the highly-decorated hats. 

 Once arrangements had been made, we headed home in the dreaded micro with 20 people squished into it. An indigenous lady made my knees part of her armchair so by the time we returned to Sucre, I was happy to get out in order to walk around and get the blood flowing back into my legs again.

Chris and Pat successfully finished their jobs early and went on a short hike on an abandoned railway track just outside of Yamparaez. There were lots of interesting things to see including a place where bricks were being made.

On Thursday, it was Chris' birthday and what a great day he had. Early in the morning, Matt, Maritza, Roxana and Jhasmany arrived with a lovely birthday cake. Bolivians have a tradition that after the birthday person blows out the candles, he/she has to take a little bite of the cake. As the bite is taken, someone pushes the birthday person and their face ends up in the cream on top of the cake. Well, Chris went for a dive into the cake and what a big laugh we all had. Unfortunately, we lost the wonderful photo that I took of him in the process of downloading our pictures.

At lunchtime, our landlords kindly invited us over to their house for a traditional Bolivian meal in honour of Chris' special day. We ate like kings - a peanut soup, BBQ steak, a rice and cheese dish, boiled potatoes, cucumber and tomato salad and a lemony, whipped cream dessert. Wine and a strawberry/cider juice accompanied the meal. By the way, Bolivian wine is great! Our favourite is a red wine called Campos de Solana which is made in Tarija. 

Wines of Bolivia 

By the afternoon, all of us were pretty tired from all of our socializing in Spanish, so the rest of the day was spent reading and resting.

We had planned on going back to Tarabuco on Friday, but due to a 24 hour general strike by bus and taxi drivers as well as teachers, our trip was postponed until the following Monday. 
It was a nice day, so we went to the Museo de Arte Indigena which is housed in a lovely old building about 2 blocks from where we are living. There are about 12 rooms with exhibits and a shop selling woven items. When we entered, we were each given a booklet written in English which explained each of the displays. We were asked not to take photos in the museum.

The first room gave us an introduction to the various ethnic groups in Bolivia, and from there we went into other rooms which displayed traditional costumes and weavings from the different areas of Bolivia. Most of the weavings came from two areas around Sucre - from the Jalq'a people who live in the Potolo valley and from the Tarabucans who live in Tarabuco.

The Jalq'a weavings are very distinctive as they use only red and black threads and weave strange designs all over the weavings. There are horses and oxen, frogs and rabbits, people and mythical creatures. Many designs are inspired by dreams and as there is no written record of the patterns, the designs are done from memory and passed down from mother to daughter.

The Tarabuco designs are completely different and more colourful. The background is white with narrow and wide bands of colour with figures woven on them. They dye their wool with natural dyes from insects and plants - blues, turquoise and black, as well as reds and yellow. 

Most of the weaving is done by women, but in 1994 men were also encouraged to weave using small square looms. The men use a completely different technique for weaving and use synthetic dyes. For those of you who understand weaving, women change the colours of the warp and men change the colours of the weft. The men's weavings are quite attractive, filled with colourful animals and more realistic-looking scenes.

One of the exhibit rooms also contained traditional, musical instruments and costumes worn for special occasions. Dancers play several instruments while they are dancing. Kind of like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach while chewing gum. We have seen people playing a big drum and a flute at the same time, while dancing with bells on their hats, or around their ankles, or around their waists. One of the types of  wooden dancing shoes still used had spurs on the backs that were used as a tambourines as they danced and clicked their heels.  Hard to explain but interesting.

On one of the balconies of the house, two women were demonstrating weaving techniques. Apparently it takes 2 to 3 months to finish one piece of work. It looked painstaking. The women were sitting on the floor, hunched over their work. Every thread had to be counted for each tiny pattern on the tapestry and then a needle is used to separate the threads before the shuttle is passed through. So intricate, so beautiful, so much work.
The museum had been recommended to us by several people, and we are happy that we had a chance to go through it before we returned to Tarabuco. 

Many people had also said that we just had to go see a folkloric dinner show called Origenes. Matt's friend, Jhasmany, is a dancer in the show and we were looking forward to seeing him perform. Well, we were in for a treat. The two hour show was excellent! Fast-paced and colourful, with high energy music and lots of fun.

Traditional dances from different areas of Bolivia were performed with great attention given to beautiful costumes and enthusiastic dancing. The troupe of 16 dancers were wonderful as devils and clowns, African slaves and Spanish nobility. We also witnessed a bullfight and Mamapacha spreading her wealth. It was an entertaining evening and we had a great time. Now, we can highly recommend this show to others. Way to go Jhasmany! We didn't realize that you were such an athletic and charismatic dancer!

Even though Gail had a cold, she couldn't pass up going to a university soccer game with Chris and Pat on Sunday afternoon, while I stay home and write. Chris bought two baseball caps - one for each team that is playing. I guess that he will decide which hat to wear at the game by the fans that are around his sea?. Or maybe he will change his hat depending on who scores a goal? Oswaldo, our landlord joined them and they had a good afternoon.

Bright and early, on Monday afternoon we negotiated for an express micro to Tarabuco. We had had enough of vans meant for about 10 people but filled with 18-20 people. We needed the leg space!

When we got to Tarabuco, the library and the local elementary school were ready for us. We performed 3 1/2 shows in a lovely space in the school to 450 kids, plus one fluffy, white dog who walked in, joined the audience and made himself comfortably at home at Roxana's feet. Check out the faces of the kids to see how much they liked it!

In the afternoon, we put on our puppet-making workshop for 21 children, two teachers and the librarian who were thrilled by their efforts at the end of two hours. Chris and Pat were able to squeeze in fixing up some metal shelves, putting up a coat rack for backpacks and assembling a lending 'reading glasses' rack. It was a great day and we appreciated our private van back to Sucre. We all went to bed early!

Now, we have a day to prepare for our next outing to Presto, on Wednesday. 







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Mike Maurice on

You guys are doing a fantastic job. Keep smilin' .

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