Buen Vivir

by Walter Prudencio Magne Veliz, Ambassador of Bolivia in Germany:

Tamera is very happy with the significant results of the Water Symposium, that took place from August 12 - 14, in which water experts from different countries shared their knowledge. Sepp Holzer and Bernd Mueller spoke about the water retention landscape and its potential to heal the hydrologic balance with decentralized systems wordwide. We felt especially honoured by the participation of the Bolivian Ambassador in Germany, Walter Prudencio Magne Veliz. Here you can read his talk in the English translation. 

Brothers and sisters, today we are here to share with you the vision of "Buen Vivir" - a good life. "Buen Vivir" comes from the Indigenous word suma qamaña. Buen Vivir is based on an ethical framework, which includes constant reciprocity and complementarity.

This is an Indigenous flag.  It is called Wiphala.  It is the banner of the Qulla Suyu. Each color represents a culture. As you see, none is bigger than the others. All of them are equal. This is the symbol of the process of change in Bolivia.

It is important to understand that colonialism is resurfacing. Through neo-liberalism, manifests as oppression and dependency. Bolivia used to have an 80% dependency for food. Wheat flour came as a donation from the governments of Canada and the USA, and with that, they achieved price dumping. Therefore, we now call the process in Bolivia a process of decolonialization. And this works not only by changing laws, but also by changing the way of life.

We put forth a referendum in Bolivia in order to achieve that - with respect to all the 86 cultures of this country - we call ourselves a pluri-national state and gave ourselves a constitution which declares food and water as human rights. Because of that, we now have a new horizon in Bolivia. On this new horizon is included the basis of our old cultures which says that the principles of life are based on a couple and not on one.

Man is complementary to woman, and woman is complementary to man. But for us in Bolivia this is a challenge, because patriarchy and machismo exists in all Latin America and also in Bolivia. But the very moment that the situation of the women changes, the horizon will change.

Creating a new horizon encompasses a wider understanding of complementarity. The horizon which had been provided by neo-liberalism and the colonial structures has brought domination and humiliation of the peoples. This is why we have to fight for independence concerning food and water. You will probably remember that, in Bolivia, we had a war over water. A foreign company came and wanted to privatize the water service.  They wanted to charge for the use of rainwater and the use of the water from the wells. The water price rose by 300%. The people of Bolivia did not accept that. You have to understand that water is established in our culture. The water comes from the mountains. The mountains belong to us. The mountains are sacred for us. The mountains are our grandfathers, and the water fountains are our grandmothers.

This is a strong power in our culture. With this power we have been able to make change.

When somebody wants to get married, he or she has to ask for permission.   The man goes to the mountain of the woman, and the woman has to go to the mountain of the man. That´s why there is an intimate relationship between humans and the high mountains, and this is what makes our culture so strong.

On July 28th, the president of the Pluri-national State of Bolivia, Evo Morales, said that water is the mother of all rights. But in this time of climate change, which has already caused a huge migration, it is necessary to think about those people who are going to be affected. We have to be aware of the fact that the colonizers owe a historical debt to those who were colonized.

The industrial countries want the Indigenous people to be gardeners of biodiversity, but we are not going to accept that. With bio-piracy the companies of the industrialized countries have turned human health into big business.   And as you know very well, the same has happened with food. The bio-piracy of the multinationals who want to own the seeds of the world must not be accepted, because the seeds belong to humankind.  They must not belong to a few companies.

When a person in Bolivia is 7 years old, the grandfather or grandmother comes with a present. This can be a sheep, a lama, or a chicken. This is a present that teaches a child to relate to nature. These animals are also the economy of a child. This relationship of humans with nature - it is sad to say - will break down when a boy comes to his adolescence, because he will enter the military service. And there the young men learn to hit each other, to have an enemy, to dominate each other. This is one way to give patriarchy a structure. Today, we are also faced with changing the military service in Bolivia.

In this way of change, we are also fighting against illiteracy.   A few years ago, Bolivia was declared 0 % illiterate.

What is it that capitalism wants? It wants people without education or identity, and in this way, they can dominate them better. We are working to eliminate these forms of dependency.   By taking care of our identity, we can build this horizon of complementarity and constant reciprocity.

It is very important that you understand the cultures. We are here with modesty, but we are also convinced of what a good life means.

In the Andes, in the Amazon, different ways of life exist. But there is a center, in which we meet to share our knowledge, our wisdom, our technologies. That´s what we call Taipi.

The Taipi in Europe is Tamera.

Thank you very much for having listened to me.