Monday, August 12, 2013

A day in the life of kids and dogs in the Village of the Future

Cochabamba, Bolivia from the Cristo de la Concordia
Cochambamba is like most cities in the world, it attracts the poor. People migrating from crisis and poverty have hopes of finding a better life in the city--cities full of promise—rewarding them for hard work, bravery and courage. Cities also give out a fair share of risk and danger. Around the world in lesser developed countries, migrants often settle along rivers and railroads where they can tap into free water and electrical supplies, living in makeshift houses from cardboard and tin. Or, as the case with the Quechua and Aymara of Bolivia, they put an illegal stake in the less desirable and rocky land on the outskirts of the city. Such is the case in the growing community of Villa por Venir (The Village of the Future).

A traditional mountain homestead in the Andes

A developed homestead in the Village of the Future

A house down the hill from the Village of the Future
Bordering the neighborhoods of the wealthy, the migrants live a simple and hard life as they take the rocks from the land and begin to build more permanent structures. It is a culture shift as they leave their farming and llama herding in the higher elevations of the Andes and seek day labor in the inner city as construction workers, cab drivers and street vendors. They work hard. They slowly build a future--construct a home, have children, and raise a family.

The children of these families, like all children, love to play outdoors and create games. Living without basic 21st century technology of mobile phones and Ipads, they reflect an age before the globalized and technological society—often as close as the wealthier neighborhood across the street--when a simple roll down a hill a construction wheel barrow passes the day, providing joy and laughter. Yet, there are eminent dangers in this new environment that for many are unsafe and even dangerous, especially for children.

An example of the balance of danger and playfulness repeated often in many migrant neighborhoods of the city came on a work service day at Bien Samaritano (The Good Samaritan) community and worship center. Children and youth joined Pastor Emeterio Lobero, Mario Morales and the BuildaBridge team to construct a demonstration wall made of Cob. Eventually, the wall is to surround property of The Good Samaritan.

Site of The Good Samaritan
Bien Samaritino was founded by Iris Morales (wife of Mario Morales who passed away from cancer in 2010) with Pastor Emeterio Lovera Fiqueveda. Lovera was a seminarian at the time when he saw the need to provide services to this community, especially the children. A first step was clean drinking water and a warm bath for infants. Water is a scarce resource for informal communities. It is provided to the legally built homes from city services.

The beauty salon inside Good Samaritan
Once a week Lobera, Morales and volunteers would bring water to a small building, heat the water to a bathing temperature. In the frigid mornings they often bathed over one hundred children who had not been bathed in a week. Soon a community center was born and the children and youth found a home where they could soon learn about baking bread or cutting hair. Supported by the House of Hope, a community empowerment organization founded by Mario and Iris Morales, The Good Samaritan continues to grow in the developing Villa por Viner.

Theft is a reality in cities, especially when the poorest of the poor seek sustenance, either from desperation where jobs do not exist or from addictive habits that need feeding. The wealthy rely on high walls and gates, and police or private security for protection. But what happens when the police do not arrive?  While violent crimes are very low in Cochabamba, theft is a reality.

Driving though the maze of homes along gravel roads, one can occasionally see a foreboding sign of “quick and rough justice.” An effigy of a thief hangs high on an electrical pole. Across the street, a printed warning reads (for those who can read): Ladron Pillado, Sera Quemado (If you steal, you will burn).

The residents of Village of the Furture have their own protection—dogs. Actually, they are owned by both rich and poor, they are protectors and guard their territories with a vengeance. For the wealthy, they are kept within the walls of the residential compound and often companions on outings.

Chispa (Sparky), house dog at the House of Hope
A well dressed dog in the market
Village dogs are to be respected
For the people of the Village, dogs roam freely in and out of loosely built walls and gates. Territorial, guard dogs constantly test each other in an alpha game of power. Barking at passersby, they growl and chase each other testing and guarding their space. Occasionally, the game will go too far. A dogfight will break out in the street. Neighbors rush to the scene to break it up with water and sticks. They do not want their guard dogs injured, nor children hurt in the fray.

In the following video, images show a dogfight that broke out during the work day.  Children are accustomed to the dogs and stay out of the way.  They enjoy their play, while always aware of potential danger.  I set this series of photos to a Romantic period piece of music to soften the violence of the dog fight.

No comments:

Post a Comment