Sunday, November 1, 2009

cochabamba hike and summit

One recent Saturday, I hiked in Parque Nacional Tunari, beyond 11,000 ft and above the tree line; so far above Cochabamba that the city’s watching Jesus (Christo de la Concordia) looked like a tiny plastic figurine stuck on an anthill. I hiked with Eric Hartman, the Amizade director, and 5 of his US university students. The students are completing a semester of service learning and volunteering projects while studying Latin American history and politics.

It was good to climb thousands of steps but I suffered with Gumby legs on the way down.

Even far above the city I could still hear it – its tiny people making noises that spread beyond their bodies and streets. A festive roar could be discerned apart from the city sounds – and at its center, a stadium. Crowds gathered there for the Latin American Presidents Summit. There were presidents: Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), and other dignitaries. You can read an account of this event from a report by the Democracy Center, based in Cochabamba and San Francisco.

They gathered to discuss new economic models, to talk about trade with one another, a regional currency (called the Sucre, which they propose will compete with the US Dollar), and yes, they talked about climate change. These nations seem to be saying they want to be separate from US style capitalism; they have basic ideological differences with the US and other nations. They were saying it all loudly from the stadium. The Democracy Center’s blog has a video that takes you inside the noisy stadium. I was up on the mountain during the summit and read about it afterward. I was further above the city than even Jesus, and enjoyed my escape.

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