martes, junio 30, 2009

Returning to Sucre

Sunday, June 28

I arrived in Sucre eleven days ago after an absence of six months. Initially, I reconnected with my closest friends - a very enjoyable process - and returned to the Archivo Nacional and resumed my research – also reconnecting with the frustrating life of a scholar (dead ends and and rare and occasional and a restored optimism.)

Last Wednesday, I attended the inauguration of the 5th Annual Conference of the Bolivian Studies Association . (Some 10 years ago, I helped organize the first conference which took place at Loyola and Tulane.)
The conference was held primarily in the Archives. I was very conscientious the first day and selected talks related to my dissertation. The Bolivian and Latin American scholars had a knowledge so extensive and deep that I walked away feeling quite intimidated but also stimulated. My interests were only indirectly addressed. I still believe that my focus on the artisans of La Plata (colonial Sucre) and the way the urban fabric accommodated distinct social groups has largely been overlooked. So, I hope I will be able to make a valuable contribution.

My attendance diminished as the days went by and even though a star in the Bolivian Studies firmament - Tristan Pratt from St. Edwards University in Scotland - presented Saturday morning, I was pretty much used up. I was particularly impressed by several young Bolivian scholars. One, a psychologist and historian, did a brilliant job. I spoke to him after his talk and learned he had studied architecture for 3 years before switching to psychology. I will certainly keep in touch with him. Unfortunately, he lives in La Paz. A young woman presented a talk on pre-independence pasquines (wall newspapers.) She teaches here in Sucre and when she heard my name she asked me if I would meet with a group of her students who are also working on La Plata's artisanos.

Maybe I can work out a collaborative agreement to share sources.
My Internet situation is pretty erratic. My landlord, a university professor, seems to be using a university service which allows me access early in the morning (when students are not monopolizing the net.) His children and I are working together to persuade him to switch providers. I'm writing this blog off-line. It will be posted the next time I have access. Meanwhile, I have been popping into Internet cafe's to catch up on email.

I went to a party for the recent graduates of the architecture school. They named my best friend and two of his colleagues as padrinos of their graduation fiesta and expected them to pay for it. That seemed a very bizarre custom to this gringo. I was invited and beer, dinner, beer beer beer and more beer was the evening's program. When five of us were left (mainly the profs.) and the manager of the Collegio de Arquitectos - the professional organization headquarters where the party was held - insisted that we leave, we headed to a great crowded bar, where the students who had left the earlier party had reassembled. All this drinking was too much for me, I left early and got home at 2am after partying from 5-30 in the afternoon.

Monday, June 29

I returned to the Archives this morning with renewed patience and resolve. Today, I reviewed the annotated index of the Correspondencia de la Audiencia de Charcas. Subordinate only to the Viceroy in Lima and later Buenos Aires, the Audiencia governed an enormous region from Lake Titicaca to the North through much of Argentina, all of Paraguay and to the Pacific coast north of present-day Santiago, Chile. Given the distance from either viceregal center, the Audiencia acted with autonomy unless specifically directed. Even then, the principle "yo obedezco pero no cumplo" (I obey but do not comply) was operative. I was looking, unsuccessfully, for any indication of a request for a census. It would be very helpful if I could find out more about the population of La Plata during the 18th century. I would jump out of my skin if I could get a sense of how many artisans there were relative to other occupations. Relative statistics on race and class would be helpful, as well. No such luck. However, I did discover letters written by Alonso Carrío de la Vandera. He was the Viceroy's postal inspector in the late 18th century author of one of the few descriptions of La Plata in this period. That was encouraging.

In the afternoon, I started reviewing another set of documents I had not looked at previously. And, although I still haven't found any reference to a census, I did come across some artisans I had not yet noted: a master watchmaker and a silversmith. The silversmith was requesting that the Cabildo (the city government) name him a master silversmith in recognition of 20 years of activity. I had understood that this was the province of the guild of silversmiths, not the civil authorities. This seems intriguing and, once I go through the entire index, I will examine the original document very carefully. This was even more encouraging.

Some recent photos of Sucre can be found at

martes, junio 09, 2009

Tulane, Taihuichi and T-Shirts

This afternoon, I biked over to the Tulane Library to empty out the carrel I have been using all semester. After getting off the elevator, I noticed a young fellow in the upstairs lobby. He was wearing a yellow Taihuichi t-shirt. I couldn't resist mentioning that I would be in Santa Cruz a week from tomorrow.

Taihuichi is a world famous soccer academy. Many of Bolivia's most famous players (Marco "El Diablo" Etcheverry and Jaime Moreno - both stars on the Bolivian national team and DC United) trained there. It was formed in 1978 to involve youth from impoverished areas of Santa Cruz productively in sport and, through the talent of its staff and head coach Rolando Aguilera Pareja, it formed a team which was extraordinarily successful in Latin American youth competitions. Taihuichi invites young soccer players from abroad to participate in their training program and help support the non-profit academy.

Hal, the Tulane student, spent 6 weeks at Taihuichi two years ago. He said it was the most difficult thing he had ever done in his life. The training was so arduous that he was tempted to fake an injury. When he returned to high school in the states, he was offered a number of athletic scholarships. He eventually transferred to Tulane which doesn't field an inter-collegiate soccer team. However, Hal plays in a Latin-American league in New Orleans. At the moment, he was finishing a semester paper for Prof. Martin Mendoza (a visiting professor of political science from La Paz.)

So, clearly, the real function of a t-shirt is as a conversation starter.