|Teaching people about their sexual an reoroductory rights. (People's Daily Online/ Andre Vltchek)|
It is late morning, May 27th, 2012, and one of the squares of the Bolivian city of Cochabamba is colorful and festive. The police and army are patrolling the area, but they are apparently also enjoying the Sunday morning, looking more like some characters from an Italian comical opera than the strict upholders of the law.
The square is full. It is packed with indigenous women, some carrying children on their backs, some with cotton sacks in their hands, almost all wearing hats.
Hundreds of local women have come to the square to register their babies and children inside the provisory tents erected by the government. Most of these kids were born out of wedlock; something that would be just a few years ago deplored by society, even considered immoral and shameful. Things are changing now and fingers are pointing accusatively in different directions, while the state is trying to register everybody regardless of how he or she came to this earth, as without the proper registration, children and adults have no right for government assistance.
In 2005, Evo Morales became for the first time the President of Bolivia and despite some vicious and determined resistance and attempts to destabilize his government from both the West and the ranks of Bolivian elites, things began changing rapidly for this nation with the greatest indigenous majority in South America. And “The Process” never stopped, never even slowed down.
Now in Cochabamba like in most other parts of the country, both the city and the state are encouraging women to come forward: to list their children, to talk about the abuse they have been facing from family and society, to check themselves for breast cancer, for tuberculosis, to learn how to prepare healthy food themselves and for their children.
In the past I would have never dared to take photographs of Bolivian women and their children point blank. There were legends about stealing the soul through the lenses of cameras, and there was a creeping lack of trust. If I had attempted to ask questions, most of them would go unanswered. Now, it is as if the fog has cleared, the dam has burst, and the bitterness accumulated over years and decades has began to flow, transforming, begging to lend itself to stories. The fear has miraculously vanished, replaced by hope, and the stories that have begun emerging were full force.
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