San Francisco greeted us with a bright February sun and warm weather. Home to the land by the Bay where I lived more than 15 years, where I went to college, was married, raised my two oldest children, and made the kind of friendships that endure a lifetime. The events we did there were filled with familiar faces.
At UC Berkeley sixty people – students, faculty, old friends – filled a meeting room at the law school. Leny Olivera, Melissa Draper, and I were joined by one of the co-authors of the book, Gretchen Gordon, who is now a graduate student there.
After showing our video about the book, Dignity and Defiance, Stories from Bolivia’s Challenge to Globalization, we spoke briefly about what we learned from the writing of it – about Bolivia, about globalization, and about its impacts on things environmental, economic and cultural.
Interest in and knowledge of Bolivia is strong in the Bay Area so the questions afterwards were well-informed. People wanted to know about the new constitution and relations between the Bolivia and the U.S. They wanted to understand better how institutions such as the World Bank and IMF functioned in a poor nation. Some also challenged us, including a man who questioned my assertion that the mistakes that the U.S. makes in Latin America come less from malevolence than cluelessness. I told him that I like to err on the side of optimism.
Our main event was Tuesday in the heart of San Francisco’s Latino Mission district. I took a walk down familiar 24th street beforehand to clear my head – a walk through the very heart of the immigrant community where I had been so involved so long ago now.
Without planning on it I ended up going to visit her. We don’t know her actual name, that young woman in braids who, with only a sling in her hand, stood down a row of armed police during the Water Revolt nine years ago. I call her Cochabamba. Her image, drawn from a photograph taken by my friend Tom Kruse, sits now at the heart of a mural at 24th and York Street, a work of art created by that inspired woman who also painted the Women’s Building, Juana Alicia.
I asked her what I should say. She told me to tell stories. And so that is what I am doing.
Two hundred people filled the room lent to us by the Mission Cultural Center. It was like traveling back in a time machine – seeing faces that I hadn’t seen in many cases since a decade ago when my family and left to return to Cochabamba. The Peace Women were there (you know who you are), the valiant ones who had worked for justice in Central America by guiding people through war zones in El Salvador and letting themselves get arrested in protests at home. Now their oldest children, like mine, are in college, activists in the making. Wonderful friends at organizations such as Food and Water Watch had spread the word, as did friends in the Bolivian community.
Afterwards I turned my cohorts from the Democracy Center on to the wonders of Mission Street burritos. It made them not want to leave.
Wednesday we shifted into high gear with two events. The first was a classroom full of students and faculty and the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit school with a strong contingent of Latinos, and high interest in Bolivia. Then we boarded a Ferry at sunset to travel across the Bay to Marin, for what was supposed to be a small gathering at a Presbyterian Church in Larkspur, hosted by the Marin Interfaith Task Force on Latin America, and organized by one of our former volunteers in Cochabamba, Mike Graham-Squire. Nearly sixty people showed up there as well.
It takes a while on a tour like this to find one’s voice.
Last night we had an event at Seattle University, which I made by the skin of my teeth, directly from the airport due to flight delays. Seventy students and faculty were waiting patiently. I did my best to tell the stories from the book that would transmit something of what I have learned, as someone from the U.S. who has spent more than a decade living in a very different country very far away.
Later that evening we received a volunteer application from a young woman, a Mexican immigrant who is student at the school. She wrote us this:
Earlier today, I went to hear Jim Shultz speak on campus at Seattle University about the problems that Bolivia faces today. He talked about the meaning of democracy and how the world outside American tends to attach a negative connotation to the word. He talked about globalization, which is neither negative nor positive, and how it differs from economic globalization, which talks about the rules of the game. Mr. Shultz inspired me to make a difference. I grew up around the poverty and now that I am educated and privileged, I want to make a difference.
The path of inspiration works the other way around. There is a power in this generation of 20-somethings that are coming to these events, young people who want to engage in not just their nation but also the world. In San Francisco I spoke to them directly. “Thank you for showing up to save our country just at the moment when it most needs saving.”
They are the inspiration.
Below are the remaining dates for the tour. Come see us on the road!
Dignity and Defiance, Stories from Bolivia’s Challenge to Globalization (University of California Press)
“This is the little-known story of a people that has dared to fight back against the most powerful economic forces on the planet, told by writers with the courage to dig relentlessly for the truth and the humility to stand back and let their subjects speak for themselves. Enraging, unsparing, inspiring.”
—Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine
WHERE TO HOOK UP WITH THE DEMOCRACY CENTER BOOK TOUR
Here are the main public events below. A full calendar of all the events, including a number of smaller ones not listed here, with a list of our sponsors, maps and downloadable flyers (that you can copy and post to help spread the word), can be found at this link.
February 6 — Seattle, WA
When: 7:00 pm
Where: University of Washington, HUB 310
February 8 — Albuquerque, NM
When: 2:00 pm
Where: The University of New Mexico, Student Union Building (SUB), Film Center (lower level), 801 Yale NE, Albuquerque
[Part of the Sin Fronteras Film Festival]
February 9 — Santa Fe, NM
When: 6:00 pm
Where: El Museo Cultural, The Santa Fe Railyard
1615 Paseo De Peralta #B, Santa Fe
February 10 — Santa Fe, NM
When: 6:00 pmWhere: St John’s College, Junior Common Room, 2nd Floor Peterson Student Center, 1160 Camino Cruz Blanca, Santa Fe
February 12 — Washington DC
When: 6:30 pm
Where: Busboys and Poets, 1390 V St NW @ 14th, Washington
February 13 — Washington DC
Where: George Washington University (The Elliott School), 1957 E St., Suite 505, NW Washington
February 17 — New York, NY
Where: The New School, 66 W. 12th St., New York
February 18 — New York, NY
When: 7:30 pm
Where: The Brecht Forum, 451 West Street (between Bethune and Bank), New York
February 19 — Boston, MA
When: 7:00 pm
Where: Boston University, The Jacob Sleeper Auditorium CGS building,
871 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA
February 20 — Boston, MA
When: 7:00 pm
Where: The Jamaica Plain Forum
First Church in Jamaica Plain, UU
6 Eliot St. (across from the monument),
February 21 – South Hadley, MA
When: 11:00 am
Where: The Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., The Village Commons, S. Hadley
February 21 — Northampton, MA
When: 3:00 pm
Where: Smith College, Neilson Browsing Room, Northampton
February 23 — St Paul/Minneapolis, MN
When: 7:00 pm
Where: Macalester College, John B Davis (JBD) Lecture Hall, Campus Center, Lower Level
February 24 — Chicago, IL
When: 6:00 pm
Where: The University of Chicago
International House, 1414 E. 59th St., Chicago
HOW TO GET YOUR COPY OF DIGNITY AND DEFIANCE
Order the book today from (click the links):
University of California Press