Media Reports 2013

Amy Provan: Intern at Bolivia Express Between 15 July and 15 August I worked as an intern at Bolivia Express – an English-language magazine set up by Oxbridge graduates that is produced and distributed in La Paz, Bolivia. It has a strong internship programme which supplies the majority of the magazine’s content. Over the month I was given twenty-four hours of Spanish lessons, journalism classes, photography classes and a supportive team of editors to help with our articles. Our assignment was to write at least one article for the monthly issue, around a specified theme. For August the theme was ‘Tribes’. Arriving in La Paz airport at 5.20am after a 20 hour journey and far from confident in my Spanish ability, I was very glad to see a Bolivian Express sign with my name on it. On my first day I was quickly introduced to the editors of the magazine and the other interns I would be working with for the next month, then ushered out to celebrate La Paz day with the rest of the city. Parades, street bars and live music in the main San Francisco square was the perfect introduction to the hectic city that was to become my home for the next month. Settling in to life in Sopocacci (the area of La Paz I was living in) came quickly. I was allocated a Spanish teacher with one other person, and had lessons three times a week. These provided structure, to my otherwise flexible timetable, and greatly improved my spoken Spanish. I began to find my way around the city and dedicated myself to seeking out the best Bolivian coffee shop. In our first editorial meeting, we discussed the theme for that month’s issue and contributed our ideas for articles. Having spent the previous summer travelling Cuba, I was interested in the separation between tourists and the local population in developing countries. Although less pronounced than in a place where it was illegal for me to stay in the house of some Cuban friends, it was still obvious that travellers in Bolivia were a tribe of their own. I resolved to make this the topic of my article, and through it discuss the stark inequalities I encountered in Bolivian society. Wanting to understand more of Bolivian culture than just how outsiders fitted into it I decided to write a second article on Domestic Workers in Bolivia. The country recently became the first in South America to pass a law ensuring such basic rights as minimum wage and regular breaks for the 140 000 domestic workers in Bolivia alone. With the vast majority being women and their often hidden position within the home, they are a particularly vulnerable and underrepresented group. Going from never having interviewed anyone before, to questioning the leader of one of Bolivia’s major unions in Spanish, the research process was a learning curve to say the least. I began by arranging to meet a woman who had been a domestic worker for one of the editor’s friends. Angelica, left school and moved to the capital when her mother died. She was then the bread winner for her two younger brothers and worked as a live in domestic worker from the age of 17. She faced abuse from the first family she worked for, and found she could not trust or confide in the other domestic workers she knew. She described the divergence between the life she lived and that which in her youth she dreamed of. The highlight of my journalistic experience in Bolivia came when I interviewed Prima Oxa – the leader of the National Federation of Domestic Workers (FENATRAHOB). This was organised by our journalism teacher, who was also present during the interview. Getting the chance to talk to her to begin with was a challenge. Two interviews were arranged and cancelled at the last minute as she was too busy. In the end we did it over the phone, and when the signal cut out she became completely un-contactable. Much to my surprise, despite the fact that she is politically powerful and very well respected, she is still forced to work in a foreigner’s home in order to gain a salary. She described the on-going difficulties for domestic workers, and the task of the federation to make their voice better herd. Finding a focus for my article on foreigners in Bolivia took a bit longer. Interviewing foreign business owners I got the impression of a small clique who had limited interaction with Bolivia and its culture, despite having lived there for many years. Asking travellers about their experiences suggested that they too had difficulty

Made with