The End of the "Blog from Bolivia"

Dear Readers:

It was almost six years ago, in December 2004, that we began this “Blog from Bolivia.” Today is our last post.

The Democracy Center, and I, first began writing about Bolivia a decade ago as the streets of this city where we live exploded in the now famous Cochabamba Water Revolt.  Despite the belief by some otherwise, I did not come to Bolivia to cover the Revolt, or to do anything political for that matter.  My family and I returned to Cochabamba in 1998 (my wife and I had lived here in 1991-92 as volunteers in an orphanage) for reasons that were entirely personal.  In 2000 when the Water Revolt happened I just happened to be the first foreigner on the scene writing about it.

In the Water Revolt our role was an appropriate one for foreigners.  We helped draw global attention to what was happening here.  We investigated and put a public spotlight on the foreign institutions that played such a central role – the World Bank and the Bechtel Corporation.  Afterwards, when Bechtel sued the Bolivian people for $50 million in a World Bank trade court, the Democracy Center helped lead the successful global campaign to force Bechtel to drop its case.

What followed in terms of our role in Bolivia was a logical extension of that work.  We continued to undertake serious investigations of the role of international institutions in Bolivian politics.  We chronicled the role of the International Monetary Fund in Bolivia’s bloody Febrero Negro, pulled the curtain back on Enron and Shell’s massive altiplano oil spill, and traced the role of foreign gas interests in the country’s dramatic 2003 Gas War.  We published these and other investigations in our 2009 book, Dignity and Defiance, Stories from Bolivia’s Challenge to Globalization.

In our Blog these past six years we tried to offer coverage on a variety of issues – especially the turbulent world of U.S./Bolivia relations, the rise of President Evo Morales, and the sometimes violent divisions within Bolivian politics.  In addition we tried to offer here some flavor of daily Bolivian life.  Many readers still mention My Bolivian Commute as among their favorites.  And of course there are our annual April Fools posts.  A high point was last year when the Huffington Post and other news outlets picked up and ran as real news our post about Morales denouncing a U.S. plot to force Bolivia onto daylight savings time.

We have also continued to offer special reports that looked at certain Bolivian issues in more depth, such as our April report, Bolivia and its Lithium.

So why is this the end of the Blog from Bolivia?

The main reason, to be honest, is that I am done.  A decade is a very long time to do anything and I don’t believe in doing something past the point where it has real quality and inspiration.  Reporting on Bolivia is serious work.  You need to be out in the field speaking with people from a wide variety of viewpoints.  You need to follow the news closely.  You need to feel like it is your calling.  To be clear, I love living in Bolivia.  I just don’t want to spend my best energies writing about it any longer.

Another reason is that the Bolivian scene has changed.  When we began our writing about this amazing country the stories we focused on were ones that usually pitted Bolivian social movements against powerful foreign interests (Bechtel, the World Bank, the Bush administration, the IMF, etc.).  It seemed appropriate, as a foreigner, to play a serious role in getting those stories out.  Now the main stories in Bolivia are ones of complex domestic politics that often pit one “progressive” force against another.  I just do not feel that it is my role as a foreigner to offer myself as some sort of interpreter of those domestic events.

Third, I have come to believe less and less in Blogging as a source of information.  I realize that this goes against the grain of current trends, but hear me out.  Books, for example, are very serious undertakings (I have written two and co-authored and co-edited a third).  They force the writer to have a serious analysis and the reader to make a serious commitment to read it.  Magazine articles (and we’ve done our share of those) are also serious, still requiring a significant amount of depth and commitment on the part of both writer and reader.  Blogs, like many daily newspaper columns, are more in the mode of “feeding the beast” – driven too often by artificial deadlines rather than having something substantive to offer.  When I found myself trying to think of something to write instead of being inspired to write, I knew it was over.

There was also a time when the comments section of this Blog was a genuine and diverse space for debate.  A set of regular commenters, many with points of view quite different than those expressed here, offered serious analysis of their own.  We valued that a good deal.  In fact we asked one of our more fervent critics to review and critique a draft chapter of our book, which he did with great skill.  But for sometime now the comments section has been an outlet for a handful of people who confuse analysis with insult, chasing everyone else away and rendering it all boring and useless as a serious forum.

Now, let’s be clear, the end of the Blog from Bolivia does not mean we are going away.  Nope, all this is about a metamorphosis.  It is about the Democracy Center taking our mission of “helping people build democracy from the ground up” and applying it to new challenges that build on all of what we have done, worldwide, since our founding nearly two decades ago.  The end of one thing paves the way for the beginning of another. If you are interested in what that might be, stay tuned to this space.

And for those of you who come here in search of news of Bolivia, here are some suggestions of other sources you might give a look:

Jean FriedmanRudovsky: Our colleague in La Paz who writes for Time magazine and others is a solid source of Bolivia news.  This is a link to her Time articles.

Google News Alerts: You can sign up for this free service to receive daily listings of all articles in the English media about Bolivia, ranging from New York Times articles to personal Blogs.

Noticias Bolivianas: You can also sign-up for this service from COMTECO that will deliver you a daily summary (with links) to the major headlines from most of Bolivia’s daily papers (in Spanish).

Erbol: This on-line and radio news outlet offers solid reporting on Bolivian events (in Spanish).

Andean Information Network: Our colleagues at AIN offer occasional posts and articles about events in Bolivia, with a particular focus on coca issues.

Dan Moriarty, Missionary Man: Our friend Dan Moriarty, who works with the Maryknoll Language Institute in Cochabamba, offers an interesting and often entertaining Blog that covers both political issues in Bolivia and observations about daily life here.

Upside Down World: Another colleague, Ben Dangl, offers this solid Web magazine about social movements in Latin America, as well as frequent worthwhile reports about Bolivia.

The Bolivia Information Forum: The BIF, directed by a small group of academics in the UK, produces a regular newsletter on Bolivia that offers excellent analysis on current events and issues in the country.

Those are my suggestions, but there are certainly many other good sources and we’ll leave it to people to point readers to those in the comments section.

Let me end, finally, with a few thank yous.  First, to the many Democracy Center colleagues who have shared this space with me over the years and offered our readers some amazing material – a video report about Bolivia’s melting glaciers, a documentary about Cochabamba’s Water cooperatives, reports on Bolivia’s (many) elections, and much more.  It is an honor to work with so many young gifted people and they have surely made the Blog what it has been.  Second, to the many journalists who have used our Blog as a source over the years – we have appreciated the confidence.

Finally, to you our readers.  There have been somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000 people daily who have read us here over the years, sometimes many more when Bolivia has been in the news.  In my travels around the U.S. and elsewhere I have met many of you, an assortment of people who love this beautiful country and, whether you agree with our perspective or not, have tuned into our reporting and helped make the Blog a success for six years.  Thank you.

I guess my message to you all can be summed up in a conversation I had on the street here a week ago.  A young woman who has come to Cochabamba from the U.S., as part of a semester abroad program, recognized me on the street and asked:

“Are you Jim Shultz?”

“I used to be.”

Thank you again for your interest in our Bolivia reporting, and if you want to see what the Democracy Center is getting ready to be next, keep your eye here in a month or so.

Jim Shultz,

Executive Director

The Democracy Center

Browse all Blog From Bolivia posts. Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to The End of the "Blog from Bolivia"

  1. luigi ramenghi says:

    many thanks and greatings form bologna, italy. i read every week in the last decade. and good luck. i hope to get to cochabamba one day.
    luigi

  2. Anonymous says:

    yhe things are not as dramatic as before, nothing to write about and exploit

  3. locojhon says:

    Thanks for your honest self-assessment and informative explanation of the changes going on in your life (though (fortunately) it will deprive some conspiracy theorists of good fodder).
    Thanks also for your years of reporting on Bolivia in the best way you knew. Usually I have agreed with your observations and assessments, and disagreements have been few and relatively minor. Having visited Bolivia several times over the last seven years, and chosen Cbba as my favorite location (and now with family there), I was able to revisit some of the life I had experienced–the amazing, the beautiful, the frustrating, the unbelievably-complicated life as it is in Bolivia that you described so accurately from a much more Bolivian-experienced gringo’s point of view. That is the part of your work that I have appreciated most–your observations and descriptions of life in Bolivia as you and your family have experienced it, as opposed to the ‘politics’. Your April Fools postings have been well-done and hilarious. All the best to you and your family and the Democracy Center in all your future endeavors. They have been appreciated by myself and many others. Please keep us informed as you turn the page.
    Over the years I have fallen in love with Bolivia and her amazingly resourceful, kind and hard-working people. My dream is to move there one day ‘soon’.
    I imagine one day recognizing you on some street in Cbba.
    I’ll have to ask “Were you at one time Jim Schultz?”
    locoto

    • Buffy says:

      locojhon: you expressed my feelings as well. Having lived in CBBA for 10 years and planning on a retirement soon to that “fair city”, I too will miss the coherent comments made by Jim Schultz. Thanks, Jim!

  4. Mike says:

    Thank you so much for keeping us informed. Your work is well recognized and valued by us worldwide intersted in anything Bolivian and South American.

  5. Dan says:

    Thanks for the memories, amigos. And keep up the great work.
    Gracias, too, for the link to my blog.
    Saludos!

  6. b dogg says:

    Peace out brother, Jim. I will miss this blog. Bryan

  7. Carmen says:

    Hey Jim, no more hate in your heart? Your goodbye will give Peace a chance, bolivia needs it.

  8. Juvenil says:

    No creo que te vayas desde algun lugar volveras a defender el racismo de Evo, justificar sus muertos, hecharle a culpa a otros, etc.

    Hasta pronto

  9. CochabambinodeCorazon says:

    Writing a blog does take a lot of work. Many thanks to you Jim and your colleagues for 6 years of passionate and devotional writing regarding Bolivia. My sincere wishes of continued success of TDC’s new writing ventures.

  10. Ben Beall says:

    Sorry to see The Democracy Center moving on. Enjoyed all your posts. Bolivia is a fascinating country and experience.

    Keep us all in the loop as to the next venture!

    2007-2008 Peace Corps Volunteer

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thank you. Good work. I’ve been reading since about late 2004. I’ve often read Miguel Centellas and MABB, but they’re largely dormant now too. It’s not like there’s nobody else to help understand what’s going on in Bolivia, but you’ve been a great help.
    –John

  12. BolivianaMoi says:

    We will miss your postings and will be on the lookout for the metamorphosis promised even more. On behalf of those of us far from Bolivia –seems the more we spread our wings, the more nostalgic is our need to dip in our roots– you have our deep and sincere gratitude. Your acute observations coupled with courageous writing have indeed been a ciber-blessing.

    Hasta siempre, Jim!

  13. Gary A. Patton says:

    Thank you, Jim!!

  14. Anonymous says:

    You can’t handle the truth!

  15. Carlos says:

    Thank you for all your information. This week Evo Morales is coming to NY, he will speak at Hunter College and the Community Church. And we will be blogging on him at http://www.cuentasdebolivia.blogspot.com
    So where an old blog goes dormant, a new one springs up…we hope you will follow us at this blog, feel free to send us any information that ought to be up there at carlosreyes99@rocketmail.com

  16. Anonymous says:

    Your analysis will be missed by many, myself included. Trying to sort out Bolivian politics gives people who live in the first world a rare opportunity to see their own political and cultural reality from a vastly different perspective. In that sense, I think your commentary has been educational and enriching. For those of us who have a more intimate knowledge of Bolivia, the blog was, unfortunately, up until about a year ago, a fantastic way to read in depth analysis of the most influential events, many of which were heated and complicated.

    Your point is well taken regarding the changing nature of the Bolivian political landscape. I appreciate the fact that it can be difficult and dangerous blogging about politically and racially charged events as a foreigner, especially with the burden of abject poverty and the exploitative history that furthur cloud rational thought. Lets be honest, I am able to say it. When you can no longer openly analyze events and are relegated to blogging about less heated issues, it is probably time to change direction. As you mentioned very eloquently, maybe a foreigner has no place doing that anyway. For the sake of your readers and for the sake of mi querido Bolivia, I hope you find a way to “pass the torch” so that we can once again have informed and intellectual analysis of the real issues that Bolivia is dealing with, no matter how “hot” those issues are or whom the analysis may offend.

  17. jdveneno says:

    Now at least I have a job opening when we move down next June….maybe Ill start up a blog “The Piece from La Paz” or “Rico from Coroico”…in any case I will try to continue to fight the idiots by being a smart-ass

    Girl on the street: Are you jdveneno?
    Me: I will be.

    Best Regards and Muchas Gracias Jim from SoCal

    jdveneno

  18. Anonymous says:

    Jim:
    The best of luck to you and family. Thank you very much for your dedication to be a voice for bolivian causes who otherwise would be long discarded. Gracias.
    OCR

  19. Rob M says:

    Jim, you and all who read you know that you ignored corruption, abuses, deaths, Iran, Chavez, drugs, etc. to protect Evo Morales. Truth will follow.

  20. Chris M. says:

    Jim and crew–your blog will definitely be missed by me and all your fans in Seattle. Thanks for all the great reporting and analysis you’ve provided over the years. I’m sad to see the blog go–and at the same time, I applaud your thoughtful awareness of when to say when. I look forward to the Democracy Center’s new initiatives in the days ahead. This world is definitely a better place for the work you do.

  21. Thanks and Good Luck says:

    Thanks for all of your writing over the years, Jim, and for the writing of the Democracy Center crew! I always enjoyed reading the insightful, funny and well-researched blog posts. Good luck with your future projects and plans.

    Saludos,
    Ben Dangl

  22. Anonymous says:

    Article 3 – The Judicial Branch
    Section 3 – Treason

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

    The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

  23. JH says:

    Thank you Jim for your work on Bolivia and our new understanding of her. I will miss your insights, your writings, your stories without which, I fear Bolivia might be at risk of stepping back into the darkness that plagued it for so many years.

    Good job Jim!

  24. Anonymous says:

    Jim, all i have to say is Thanks. You transformed me. Made me a better person. I hope I can meet you someday. You´ll never know it´s me, however it´ll be hard to hide my tears, so there´s one clue…
    Best of luck and keep up the good work.

  25. Anonymous says:

    something tells me you might like this
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzF_MoXOU1E

  26. Anonymous says:

    Jim go on a sabatical, study economics and become a Jeffrey Sachs, we have enough leftist morons in Bolivia…

  27. Lily says:

    What a wild bunch of responses here. (I know, it shouldn’t surprise me.)

    Congratulations on a great stretch of blogdom. Truly, the end of an era at the Democracy Center. I look forward to seeing what comes next!

  28. M.G. says:

    Your focus on justice and the people underneath was necessary in a country without much justice or focus on these groups and your cultural profiles were great. A small criticism: Bolivian politics is an irrational, go-nowhere cesspool, and it is not worth analysing cesspools to the degree that you did.

  29. Anonymous says:

    And after all the epic wars agaisnt the evil corporations, how many cochalas have improved their access to clean running water?

  30. Daniel says:

    Thanks, thanks and thanks again !!!

  31. Steve says:

    Nice sign off Jim. Clear and coherent. I’ve enjoyed reading you over the past few years. Best of luck with your work. Hope to see you in Cocha sometime. Maybe if I approach you on the street you can deliver your cheesy line to me too.

  32. Amy says:

    Thanks for all your years of great blog posts. I’ve really learned a lot from them and will miss reading them. But I look forward to seeing whatever the Democracy Center has next in this space.

  33. Diego says:

    Tu blog siempre fue muy interesante de leer y quizas de comprender la realidad boliviana desde la perspectiva de democracy center, es una pena que pasen estas cosas, pero en fin… a continuar y seguir en la ruta del debate ya sea por este u otros medios.

    muchas gracias Jaime por darnos la oportunidad de leerte.

    nos vemos en la proxima K´oa!

    un abrazo

  34. Grindio says:

    Gracias Jim.
    Suerte. Un abrazo, tu amigo
    El Grindio

  35. Steinar says:

    Ive been following your blog from Norway the last years and i just have to say thank you for all the updates from Bolivia. Good luck with your work!!!!

    un abrazo

  36. Amy says:

    Dear Jim,

    I have been reading your blog since 2007 when I left Bolivia after studying there for a semester. I have so appreciated the Democracy Center’s reports, and your take on a variety of national and international issues. Thank you for everything you shared- your contributions will be missed.

    Buena suerte

  37. Anonymous says:

    Good riddance! Pls torture another country’s true believers.