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The State of Bolivian Blogs

Este artículo también está disponible en español

Over the past year, the number of blogs about Bolivia, by Bolivians and by those living in Bolivia has multiplied. Projects like Blogs de Bolivia and articles in the mainstream Bolivian press will draw more attention to this trend. As more people blog or even simply become familiarized with the term, whether it is blog or the new Spanish word “bitácoras”, the subject matter will continue to expand. More sub-categories will likely to be formed, as this community tries carve a space for itself.

In his blog, Almada de Noche, Gustavo wonders what in the world is the odd-shaped hoop and sausage right outside the entrance of the university in Montpellier, France, where he will be beginning an academic program. Originally from Cochabamba, Bolivia, he seems to be settling in nicely in his new digs and continues to blog regardless of the change of scenery. His relocation follows an early trend among Bolivian bloggers (which for all intensive purposes will be defined as blogs about Bolivia, by Bolivians, by those living in Bolivia or any combination) in that many writers of Bolivian descent find themselves anywhere and everywhere. Divisions within the growing Bolivian blogosphere are not limited to geographic boundaries.

Writing directly from within the borders of Bolivia has been heavily influenced by a strong presence from expatriates from mainly the United States who have temporarily or permanently made a home in the Andean country. Many have become quite active with community projects like the married couple Wendell and Carlye, who have assumed the role of supporting the work of the organization Colonia Ecológica. Wendell recently admitted that the majority of his entries will focus on their new project, and less about politics. However, other ex-patriates have not shied away from diving knee-deep into politics. Nick Buxton from the UK writes at Open Veins and works closely with the Solon Foundation concentrating heavily on the potential impacts of a free trade agreement between the U.S. and Bolivia. He also participated in a march down the highway from El Alto during the social unrest that led to the resignation of a President. The Democracy Center’s blog generates a high volume of comments and has been recently featured on blogger.com’s Blogs of Note.

It is often said that you can go anywhere in the world and you can find a Bolivian. For a relatively small country of 8.2 million people and whose immigrant population is heavily concentrated, but not limited to the Washington, DC, Buenos Aires and Madrid metropolitan centers, this dispersal is reflected in the Bolivian blogosphere. For example, Alexey always writes about his regional travels and cooking exploits while living in the Netherlands. Alvaro Ruiz-Navajas launched his political-themed blog from the United Kingdom. Javier reviews a little bit of everything in his blog, Una revisión de todo un poco, but has returned to commenting on Bolivian current events, even after swearing off this frustrating topic. Perhaps the most unlikely of places to find a Bolivian is in the United Arab Emirates. Antonio Saravia, an economy professor at American University of Sharjah, covers a lot of ground in his Labyrinth.

It may seem that politics dominate the content among a handful of well-known blogs. Some like, Miguel Buitrago aka MABB taps into his political science doctoral studies by focusing exclusively on politics and current events direct from Hamburg, Germany. His early compilation of Bolivian blogs grew and grew and was one of the first of its kind. Longtime blogger and political science doctoral student Miguel Centellas blogged a first-class firsthand account of the social and political crisis in La Paz in October 2003, and even though he does not limit himself to exclusively Bolivian topics, his analysis is usually right on the money. He recently caught an important error in the BBC’s coverage of the electoral crisis plaguing Bolivia. Finally, Boli-Nica loves to stir the pot as he comments, as only he can, about current events of Bolivia.

But not everyone is a political junkie. Many use their blogs as a space for reflection and outlet for literary explorations. Some like Isabella Fuente (Ergoth), Mariana Ruiz (Marea y Cielo) and Pablo Mendieta Paz from Potosi (De Reojo) have all started their blogs in mid-2005. Followers of Bolivian rock may find a special interest in Almaqueloide, the blog of “Grillo” Villegas, formerly of the band Llegas.

Crossover among the blogs written in English and those written in Spanish has been rather limited. Many bloggers are indeed bilingual, but almost all blog exclusively in one language or the other. A new project launched by the aforementioned Almada de Noche and one of the true pioneers of Bolivian blogs, Miguel Esquirol, who reflects on a wide range of subjects while living in Barcelona in his blog El Forastero, has made an effort to bring together all of the blogs. The new resource site called Blogs de Bolivia highlights recently discovered blogs, but also contains a blog roll of those that have some connection with Bolivia. Resources are also available for anyone interested in finding out more about blogs or directing them to places to start their own.

Esquirol has been heavily involved in bringing Bolivian blogs to the attention of the mainstream Bolivan press. His article published in the La Paz newspaper La Prensa last January entitled “The Fascinating World of Blogs” was likely a first of its kind and an advertisement for his blog briefly appeared on the Cochabamba newspaper, lostiempos.com website, also a first of its kind.

The Bolivian-American author maintains the blog Barrio Flores, while living in the Washington, DC area. Special thanks to Miguel Buitrago for his assistance with this article.

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