art, murals, illustration
Block Print illustration
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La Lucha Por El Agua Continúa - mural in Cochabamba, Bolivia
size: 128 feet long, 10' high (39 meters x 3 meters)
Mural created in April 2010 for the 3rd Feria Del Agua, coinciding with the 10th anniversary since the Water War in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
All anniversary events, including the mural, were organized by the nonprofit organization Asica-Sur, who represent local, independent
communitarian water systems, and by the Federation of Factory Workers of Cochabamba, led by prominent water warrior and Goldman
prize winner Oscar Olivera, with crucial help from Marcela Olivera.
click on image for a larger and different view. Scroll to see the rest of the mural ---> --->
The mural was painted next to the entrance of the Complejo Fabril (The factory workers' Union building complex on Avenida Melchor Perez)
tying the pre-existing "Complejo Fabril Cochabamba" sign to the actual entrance. The Complejo Fabril was the site of the Feria del Agua
events, which included a massive commemorative march through the city of Cochabamba from the central Plaza to the Complejo on April 15th, as well as a conference, seminars, and a water forum with stands and exhibits on communitarian water systems and related themes.
The mural's imagery has various sources of inspiration: Cochabamba resident, journalist and author Jim Shultz, who in 2000 was the first chronicler of the Water Wars to the outside world, provided great insight, and so did Marcela Olivera and Oscar Olivera. Details in the mural were inspired by testimonials arising from collaboration, visits and interviews with various local communities, which came about as my friend and collaborator, activist David Solnit and I, taught puppet-making workshops in various areas of Cochabamba, facilitating the creation of visual props by local communities for the march of April 15th. Of particular interest were the communities of the Zona Sur (the parched, underpriviledged southern neighborhoods of the City of Cochabamba, where several impressive communitarian water systems operate.)
What the mural represents:
The mural seeks to commemorate the historically exceptional unity that the Cochabamba region was able to achieve in the period of the water war of 2000. This unity, alas, has since been lost. The many active groups that were part of the uprising came from 3 geographically distinct areas, represented within the three ribbons that interweave to form the bolivian flag that a youth on a barricade is carrying.
The first ribbon, which starts from the "complejo fabril" sign, represents the urban population, including the middle class and the church, preceded by the Federation of Factory Workers, on whose headquarters' balcony the famous red banner was hung which marked the moment in which the urban areas joined the countryside in resistance to the privatization of the region's water supply. In the picture below, Oscar Olivera (right) finds himself in the mural, along with Abraham Grandydier of Asica-sur.
The second, green ribbon represents the diverse rural groups that rebelled: from the federation of land irrigators (represented by the landscape of fields with irrigation canals) who were the first to rise up, to the campesinos from near and far (represented by the Maiz, potatoes and quilquiña), to the cocaleros from the Chapare (represented by the coca leaves).
The third, yellow-orange ribbon represents the hilly, dry, waterless Zona Sur, which is settled in great numbers by former miners from Potosì, as well as former campesinos. In the photo below, Don Filemón of the water cooperative "22 de Abril" of the 14th District of Cochabamba, points to the water tank of his coop which he took me to see, as well as his entire community working to build the road leading up to the tank. All these efforts are conducted autonomously by these communities, who cannot rely on neither private nor government entities to provide them with basic infrastructure.
The moment of the water war itself is represented by the barricade. The Bolivian flag was most prominently used, along with the Whipala, by the people on the barricades. The weapon of choice was the slingshot.
Behind the barricade, the water-colored background becomes turbulent, sybolizing upheaval, and the spreading of the struggle to far beyond local politics.
Towards the right end of the mural, this water calms down again, melting into clouds and a symbolic depiction of the scant and overtapped water table under Cochabamba. What happens after things calm down? What is the water situation like now, 10 years later? As the waters calm, the city is shown as having water "roots" drawing from the natural resources below. Some roots, notably those near the southern, hilly areas, do not reach the water and turn brown. To the right of this, a page turns: the end of the story, the end of the struggle for a just and equitable distribution of natural resources, is not over. The story, and the struggle, continues.