jueves, junio 14, 2007

Primeros Pasos

The "Torre Eiffel" in Sucre's Parque Bolivar
(a reminder of last summer's activities)

The facade of the Chapel of the Virgin de Guadeloupe
and the Cathedral Tower
Cathedral Nave

San Felipe Neri - former entrance to Monastery and towers

Wednesday, June 13

A productive but confusing day. After breakfast at what may be the only wireless equipped café-bar in Bolivia, I entered the Archivo Nacional. Not surprisingly, my registration from 2 years ago could not be found. I had a meeting with the Director, Doctora Marcela Inche, the President of the Associacion de Estudios Bolivianos – I helped organize their first international conference in New Orleans. With the friendly help of a librarian in the reading room, I finally completed my registration, was photographed and became scholar #824. During the days prior to the arrival of Linda and Kelly, I will use the comfortable facilities of the Archivo to prepare for my lecture there on July 5 (translating my Art History Paper on Arzáns and Holguín into Spanish) and an article for Yachaspa, the newsletter of the Bolivia and Peru Peace Corps alumni group. In this case, I am translating a paper I wrote for the Andean Literature course into English.

Dtra. Inche showed me a group of painted texts from the 18th century, which she referred to as “pasquines.” These were broadsheets created during much of the colonial period complaining of the actions of the Spanish government. This pasquine was written and painted by an itinerant Argentine shoemaker, barber, blood-letter who had traveled and worked in Córdoba to Potosí and Lima. Apparently, there are other pasquines in the collection, many of them in verse. I was thinking more in terms of earlier chronacles of discovery and settlement, but this is certainly a potentidsally interesting way of understanding the colonial period.

The documents in Bolivia’s archive are arranged according to size to use the limited climatically controlled storage space as efficiently as possible. Like other archives, you need to request a document using card-catalogues that are hardly descriptive of a document’s content. Consequently, browsing is impossible. There is a cronological listing and I may find myself requesting every plausible manuscript until I find something that is suggestive. Where are the original Arzáns sheets (over a thousand)? Is there a facsimile edition – the 3-volume set prepared by Hanke and Mendoza presents the text and only a few illustrations.

Tuesday night, I returned to the Hostal unusually late. I had taken Darío and Camen Julia out for dinner on my birthday. I entered the dark courtyard and looked up at the stars. At 11 o’clock, Sucre becomes quiet and, with few streetlights and very thin air, the stars and planets glow with an intense light – an extreme contrast from New Orleans’ moisture laden air and general urban glow. The courtyard of this one-story hotel, originally a house built in the 17th century, the patio is filled with direct sunlight during the day and is sufficiently protected from the street to feel like an urban oasis. The residents sun themselves during the day while they write postcards home. The Quebecquois left a few days ago to be replaced by a group from Israel. Otherwise, we are from Australia, Germany and Brazil, but that changes daily.

martes, junio 12, 2007

Sucre Days (Daze)

Sunday at the Cemetery


La Vendadora de Flores

Annual Car Race viewed (or not viewed) from the Plaza

Sunday, June 10

Roberto Castellón, the Director of the Carrera de Arquitectura, invited me to lunch. On the way, Roberto wanted to visit his father’s grave. The cemetery is very reminiscent of the one in Montparnaisse, but so much smaller. Like New Orleans cemeteries, walls of tombs form spaces, here containing cypress trees and benches. Rather than faced with marble slabs, in Sucre there’s a narrow shelf for flowers and other mementos and a glass door surrounded by a brass frame.

Roberto unlocked the door and his sons helped him wash two small vases and arrange the fresh flowers. Roberto’s father was a veterin of the Guerra del Chaco and was burried close to many of his friends. Nearby, there was a group of childrens’ tombs. Instead of flowers, their shelves contained their toys and, in one instance, a small bottle of Coca Cola. I was reminded of Inca funerary bundle – in particular, the toys accompanying mummified children. Could this be another example of...
Monday, June 11

I’m sitting in the lobby of the Facultad de Tecnología. I’ve been invited to lunch at the home of my friends Darío and Carmen Júlia and they are at a meeting and I can’t figure out where.

Four years ago, during my last sabbatical from Tulane, I volunteered my services to the Carrera de Arquitectura and taught here. My students were in their first and third semesters. The older ones are beginning to graduate. While waiting, I’ve chanced upon several of my former students. We make plans for coffee over the weekend. This is exam period and final project reviews begin next week. I’ve already been invited to participate.

Tuesday, June 12

This morning, I was invited to a meeting at the Carrera de Arquitectura. They are about to break away from Tecnología and form an independent Facultad. The meeting set forth the process through which they will generate a new curriculum. One of my former students is now the Architecture representative to the university student assembly. He spoke so eloquently, politely and assertively making excellent points in defence of the students needs for participation and their own time limitations. Very well done.

I was told that I would be interviewed on videotape for a later session. I’m to explain the US “system” of architectural education – a talk I forgettably gave 4 years ago. I feel so removed from the theme. Three years of involving courses in Latin American literature, history and anthropology have redirected my concerns. Yet, architecture was the dream of my childhood and the framework of my work for most of my adult life.

A House for Sucre
Uses the sun to generate it’s own
Hot water
Warm winter air

(It´s amazing how little work is done on the use of solar energy

here - amazing.)

A study of light and the gradations in the transition from indoors to the

brilliant outdoor light.

Snug in winter and permeable in summer
Maximize outdoor living

miércoles, junio 06, 2007

La Merced and one of Sucre's two hills.

The Cathedral at dusk

The Light in Sucre

A brilliant blue sky
Red ceramic roof tiles
White washed walls
A quiet patio – just a few feet from a busy street
The sun’s warmth can still be felt although in an hour it will be quite chill.

I just came back from the mini-Supermarket. Sucre has two and their combined stock would fill maybe one aisle in my Save-a-Center in New Orleans but there is more of a selection than you can find anywhere here other than the busy and municipal market or the mercado campesino. I also stopped by the neighboring pharmacy and got a rehydrating powder.

My “problemas estomacales” have diminished but I have not dared eat anything substantial. I bought some fiberous cold cereal and a banana and we’ll see if that helps. That is the risk one faces accepting an invitation to dinner and a significant change of diet.

Tomorrow, with luck, I will be able to visit the university and my friend el arquitecto Roberto Castellon, the director of the architecture program. The students are turning in final projects and maybe I can participate in final project reviews. I also plan to go to a travel agency to see if there were tours to the Salar de Uyuni – giant salt flats north of Potosi which are a huge tourist attraction here – and to the Chiquitania – a group of Jesuit Missions in the lowlands between Santa Cruz and the Brazilian border. Both tours will take several days. AeroSur has a promotion of inexpensive all-inclusive tours to Buenos Aires and Sao Paolo, which I might consider. But, my time is still limited.

I will also make final reservations for Linda and Kelly’s trip. They arrive in Santa Cruz on the 27th of June. I think a brief stay in the relative warmth of Santa Cruz will ease the adjustment and, while it doesn’t possess the colonial richness of Sucre and Potosi, it is still interesting to visit a city which grew from a population of 40,000 in 1964 to it’s present million.

lunes, junio 04, 2007

El oso perezoso

The remnants of old Santa Cruz

The Landscape between Santa Cruz and Sucre

La Llegada

Friday, June 1

I‘m tired and have a headache. It’s the middle of the afternoon, almost a day after my arrival in Sucre. I climbed a spiral stair in the tower of la Glorieta, the late 19th Century country palace that my friend Darío is restoring outside of the city. I took it slow but now I’m feeling the altitude consequences.

Last night I finally got to sleep soundly. The overnight flight from Miami was a test of patience and endurance. American Airlines provides minimal coach passenger comforts and my knees were killing me.

But these are minor complaints. I spent several hours in Santa Cruz, revisiting what is left of the center of the town of 40,000 that I knew 40 years ago. Now, the city has over a million. It was cool and breezy. A policeman, was carrying a tree sloth facing outwards - was protecting himself from the long claws. He placed the sloth on the trunk of a nearby tree and slowly and carefully the curious bearlike animal began to climb. Apparently, the poor fellow had wandered into the street.

I got to Sucre at 3:30 in the afternoon. An hour before I told my friends I would be arriving. AeroSur had changed their schedule. Fortunately, I took an early taxi back to the airport from Santa Cruz. I checked in to my hotel and Dario came by and we had a nice walk around Sucre’s wonderful plaza, full of the kind of urban life most planners dream of. Then, a shower and a good night’s sleep.

Sunday, June 3

Sunset comes early approaching the equinox. It’s 5pm and I am sitting in the courtyard of my hotel. There is no direct sunlight and it is getting cool but this is so much more pleasant to write here than in my dark room.

This morning, I woke up too late for the hotel’s breakfast and walked to the market where I bought an adapter. Now I can recharge the battery of my computer. I went for breakfast at the Joy Ride Café, a bar and restaurant owned by two Dutchmen who have been here for years. I discovered that they have WiFi and now I will be able to conduct Internet business much more easily.

Yesterday was Valeria’s birthday. She is the two-year old daughter of my friends Dario and Carmen Julia. It was a gathering of more than 35 relatives and friends. Dario’s family is so large – he’s one of 6 siblings with their children – that there are almost always birthday parties or other festivities. I’ve known his family now for many years and they pretend to look forward to our next Karaoke encounter.

I’ve been taking advantage of the video-clip capacity of my digital camera. I managed a short clip of 2-year old Valeria playing basketball. Dario’s father-in-law was, in his youth a teammate of a Peace Corps Volunteer and always coached basketball teams. He has quite a few granddaughters and was putting them through their paces and little Valeria couldn’t’ be left out. I wonder if it is possible to post video clips within my blog.

Tomorrow, I will go to the architecture school. The Archivo Nacional is two blocks form my hotel and I registered there as a scholar and will have faciities for reading and writing. I plan to spend time with the substantial collection of colonial documents looking for illustrated manuscripts – grazing for material for my dissertation.

It’s gotten too cold to stay out in the courtyard so I will sign off.