Friday, January 2, 2009

Bolivia. El Alto. Eloy and Family

Eloy and his family

Current living quarters

New house next to old house

Eloy and his wife Dona Maria lived down the street and ran a store on the corner. I got to know them very well, as their store provided much needed staples such as yoghurt, bread, telephones, and chocolate. Half of the time, their two daughters, Erica and Pamela, when not in school, were running the store and listening to my phone conversations.
During my time there, they were living out of basically two rooms. One room was the bedroom and everything else. Within that one room, all four of them slept along with Maria’s mother. The kids studied in there as well. Outside was the kitchen and a rudimentary toilet.

They bought the plot of land in 1998 for US$10,000 and through the pooling of family resources, was able to buy two plots together (320 m^2). They moved from another part of El Alto because there were no real transportation options and places to run a business. He now believes the land alone has doubled in value. He first built the one story house in the back. They lived in a total of three rooms. Once they decided to open a store, he had to rent out one of the rooms to help pay for the costs. Once he had completed the first floor in 2002, he was able to run a store and rent out another room as a pharmacy. This income helped pay for the second floor, which he is now close to completing. It will be a two bedroom and one study apartment with generous living room, and nice tiled kitchen and bathroom. This will be a huge step up for them, considering their living conditions. In one year, he plans to cover the fa├žade in a cement coating. This will give it identity as well as protection from the rain, as the bricks do leak moisture. His mother and wife’s sister live in two rooms in the attached house in the back and they run a store right next door.
Albanil, master craftsman
Eloy designed the house himself and drew the plans. He is the architect of the world. Not necessarily a barefoot architect, but a real architect. Although he is right across from the Subalcaldia, he did not go through the municipality because he said it was too expensive. He basically decided to spend that extra money on tiles to make the kitchen and bathrooms sing.

There is a festival here called Alacitas, where each January, people buy up things in miniature that they hope the gods will bless them with. I even still have miniature bricks, cement bags, and wheelbarrows from my childhood in Bolivia. One day in Elhoy’s store, I noticed a miniature building sitting on the shelf. It was their wish. And they were having it granted.
The dream almost fulfilled
I honestly had a hard time understanding how different their two worlds were. This was an indigenous Aymara family that had moved from their village in the Altiplano to El Alto. And they were moving from a rural two room house to a new modern 6 room house that certainly rivaled many in the US in terms of quality. And they did it all by themselves on the same plot!


AV said...

I had forgotten about the Branner blogs. Anyhow, this is a _great_ story in your presentation, and it was nice to read about it more in-depth here in your blog. -Adriana

luke w perry said...

adriana. great to see you shared some interest in this family that came to mean so much to me. and glad you made it the other night.

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