More amazing facts about la plata

Potosí not only enriched the Western world with its silver, it also had at its time important influence on the world financial system since the first world currency was produced here. From the ending of the 16th century the coins printed in the city of the cierro rico could be used all over the world from Europe to Asia because of its high percentage of silver (96 percent). Just that the coins were not round caused some headaches since. It was posible to nibble some corner off and stay with an additional source of income.

That abuse had to come to an end when the mint of Potosí introduced new and imported machines in the 1770ies to produce real round coins. The reazon while we still find this form in our wallets. And history did not stop. The first Argentinian coins were printed in Potosí, when it was conquered for some time in the idependent wars of the Cono Sur, and of course the coins of the republic of Bolivia which gained as one of the last countries of South America independence from the Spanish kingdom in 1825. Bolivian coins were produced in Potosí till the 1950. Afterwards and up till now, the country imports its notes and coins. And guess what: Nowadays from Spain.

Potosí was not only producing coins. In the whole region and of course in Europe you´ll find everything made out of the metall from the cierro rico. From silvern clerical artifacts (see above) to secular pisspots. If you are interested in the other side of the silver business, I recommend the award winning documentary "the devil's miner" which we yesterday bought on one of the huge markets of La Paz and we could directly see on the hostel's television. What a luxurious life.


Feliz cumple, Nils!

Hier ist es noch nicht zu spaet zum gratulieren: Alles Gute zum zweiten aus La Paz! Nils, wir haben deinen Geburtstag mit bolivianischen Toertchen und Blick auf diese unglaubliche Stadt gefeiert. Gerne haetten wir auch ein bisschen gesungen, aber das haette die Verbindung im Leben nicht bis morgen hochgeladen. Das musst du dir also vorstellen. Und morgen gehen wir dann noch Geschenk shoppen. Hoch im Kurs stehen Andenzipfelmuetzen (bei den Wintern die ihr in Europa habt) oder tote Lamas vom Hexenmarkt als Garant fuer Glueck und Erfolg. Mal sehen...



Potosí: symbol of European colonialism and exploitation of Latinamerica. At least 140 millions of tons of silver left Potosí towards Europe, half of all metal that was imported legally from the Americas and 3 times the amount of silver known at that time. All richness of the mine left the continent or was kept in the hand of a very small group of privileged Spaniards. Like this, together with other primary sources exploited on the continent, Potosi´s silver financed Europe´s starting capitalism - and least in Spain, where the silver was directly forwarded to english, flamish and german bankhouses that financed the wars of the kingdom. 6 to 8 millions of indian and afrikan slaves died by doing the forced labor in the mines.

Today it is posible to visit what is left from the big business. The richest silver venes where exhausted by the end of the 17 century and the spanish and international merchants concentrated on other primary sources like carribean sugar, amazonian rubber or anden cobre. Nevertheless, the mine kept on running. It was only in 1952 when the mines where nationalized and the Bolivian government gave lincenses to cooperatives of workers who since then run the business independently. Today 38 cooperatives are digging for silver and other minerals, about 6000 workers are employed by the cooperatives.

Rolando, one of the workers we spoke with in the mines, told us that he earns between 4000 and 6000 bolivianos a month (that is between 400-600 €) depending on the material he finds. You see us digging a hole with him to install some dynamite, an exhausting work which needs about an hour for some 20 centimeters. His life experience lays around 55 years, he is working for 18 years in the mines. Although the working conditions are lousy and the income not guaranteed, he is content and proud to work in the mines. A private company, he says, might pay a constant wage but wold defenitly exploit the workers more as history proofed. The cierro rico ("rich montain") will have some more silver for 15 to 20 years. Then Potosí will become only a museum that remines of the horror of colonialism.


Amigos, ahora pueden bajar y sacar algunas fotos...

As promised: We did the flamingo thing! 3 days of jeep trip through the bizzar landscapes of northeastern Bolivia. Volcans, montains, geysiers, desert in ochre and grey, so many sceneries that you can´t devide anymore if you just saw a red, blue or green lagoon. Obligatory fotos from the salares got lost with Jasper´s camera, so I am sorry to say that the pics with your beautiful socks, Mareike, which keeps me warm in all continents, got lost. As did the pics with me wondering wether Moni and Marcus already became parents and the special greetings with besos al subsuelo! Okay, now they are lost in some uphill village and we hope that some villager could improve its income with it. And you know I was especially thinking of you.

Mass tourism definitly left its stamp on the region and the trip. Since 3 days we are only "amigos" for everybody and I am worried that it will continue like this till the Carribean. On the other hand, even the most exiting part therefore lost its danger. Due to the road blocades which the Bolivians definitly learned from Argentina (driver said he never experienced that before in his carreer), we had to do varios detours, in the last we ended up somewhere really in the middle of nowwhere, this time being part of the lanscape and not only at the side on the street.

The protest was caused by trouble around the japanese mining coorperation which has a grip on the area. Some protesters think they do not pay enough taxes, some say official figures of gainings are manipulated, others were on the street because the province does not transfer this tax money to the villages in the region. Shaken by mining, an old story for Bolivia that we are going to explore more in our next destination: Potosí. Ill write from there!


3700 meters above see level

Why are we doing all that travel thing? It was 28 hours in the bus, a crossed boarder (to Bolivia), a train which left in front of our noses, a night in Villazon, another 10 hours drive through Bolivian no man´s land, headaches from the thin air and a wedding celebration the whole night through below our sleeping room. People say that the flamingos, salt lakes, hot springs and volcans around Uyuni a worth the effort. Tomorrow we will know it, when we start our 3 day trip through the landscape.

But actually, I do not believe it. And it won´t matter. I am already content by all I saw in the last two days. The Bolivian highland, the women in their traditional clothing, the street sellers who have it all, the pink toilet paper and the design of Huari beer. And the lonely landscapes which did not seem to have an end. Due to slow internet connection, images will have to wait and then we might already show you flamingos!


Recovering in Buenos Aires

the face of Jasper returnes to normal state, you can recognize form and colour again. Therefore, trip is planned to start tomorrow. Meanwhile we enjoyed that there was the Bafici - the international festival of independent cinema -going on in Buenos Aires. We saw "Petition", incredible documentary about people claiming the chinese government or justice. Beside the fact that none of the people shown ever found some justice, movie ended with the destruction of the petitioners shanty village for the new south peking railway station as preparation for the olimpics. Hurray!

Aditionally, Jasper had the chance to get to know Buenos Aires with rain, since wednesday it was rainig almost without interruption. Street sellers immediatly change business from sunglasses to umbrellas. In Buenos Aires, autumn definitly started, at night we have some nasty 12 degrees. And: Now day without a visit in a cafe. We dropped dulce di leche torta but were in for cheesecake and black forrest. Welcome home!


Every jorney starts with the first step...

Latin America, here we come! A couple of days to prepare in Buenos Aires and get ideas for the route to take, not without a visit in the legendary Amerika with the whole crew. Jasper´s swollen tonsils even strengthened us in packing survival medicine: obligatory diarrhea pills for Bolivian Andean kitchen, kort&krachtig Shaper Paste to give ours hair perfect style even in Amazon basin rafting tours, earplugs for the entertainment program in Peru's long distance buses, Adidas' “Pure Game” to maintain original Argentinian smell in the Carribean and Mycosten 1% against my dermatitis liquen which usually only indigenous people fight with. His beginning fever made the selection of 5 books of world literature even more crucial. Finally entered Puig´s Kiss Of A Spider woman, Klein's Shoque Doctrine, Márquez' 100 Years of Loneliness, König's Short (755 pages) History of Latin Amerika and Thakara's In the Bubble. Wild mixture of english, spanish, german and dutch.

Only when red spots appeared all over Jasper's body, we were taking into consideration to change our first destination. Finally, first trip did not lead us to Potosí, Machu Pichu, Cartagena or Quito but just two blocks away to beautiful Clinica Santa Isabela with its almost tropical climate, music in the air and football on the screen, good looking doctors and free drinks in the reception zone. Result: A scarlet fever infection. Clearly proven by the strawberry red tongue (left, white layers just are about to fall off). Now he is laying on the bed and breathing into a wet towel. If we survive that, rest of the trip won't do us no harm. Wednesday might be the next try. Meanwhile, we already had time to use our perfect travel backgammon when electricity broke down during the afternoon. Gee, Buenos Aires is really savage.


Basements of life

Kachelagent proudly presents: the comrades of the diaconal cellar! Basement of reports, deadlines and best travel agency in the IERP cosmos, home of the fish cuisine, mother of the ever present Guaraní connection and friendly contester to all sorts of materialistic wishes. And just like the common photo suggests eating Asian, its a life of abundance and peace down there.

Fabi, Paki friend and adviser in how to lift left wing chicks, great fellow of microwave stories, caring for the outer world, Mbya, Qom, transvestites, Paraguayans and African evangelicals amongst others fall into his portfolio.

Valle, proud and relaxed mother since 8 months, keeping order in our breathless everyday life, organizing impossibleschedules, protocols, opinions and with all that caring for the sustainability of the IERP, although doubting about it every 2 weeks. And: always having a good argument in favor of the OGA when I was close to nerve collapse.

Nicky, boss of the basement, following Jorge and maintaining the difference between diaconical work and construction investments, giving spirit to Northern visitors of all kind, recently discovered astro-physician in his spare time, but since a year without time to look into the stars if they are not called PCAEP, Charata or Hora de Obrar.

And finally Ricardo, my successor and right man on the right point, already caring for the homeless and maltreated (whether its volunteers or institutions), exDürener, exHohenauer, and exCEABAer, I wish you all the best and a lot of inspiration for the new task!

Marike, the volunteer colaborating with us, enjoyed her well-deserved holiday last and therefore can't be find on the pics but nevertheless should be mentioned here and presented at another time, facebook goddess and brain of the public relation section of our area.

Dear comrades, that was it for the next two and a half month, I´ll send in some pics from Andean heights, Caribbean beaches and amazonian jungle to inspire your work, or, like today, just some sunny hugs from the ISEDET patio, where life is humming.