The water war of Even the Rain (También la lluvia). Julio Noriega Bernuy

Recien retornados del 2013 Society for Andean Amazonian Conference, donde dirigio la mesa sobre cine andino, Julio Noriega conparte su ponencia  sobre La Guerra del agua y tambien la lluvia, acerca de una pelicula de Icíar Bollaín sobre la conquista que se filma en Cochabamba en  tiempo de la  conocida guerra del agua que evito la privatizacion de ese elemento vital en 2000.  Como resultado de la filmacion en  lugar y circunstancias especiales, Julio cuenta que esta es documental,  historia de la conquista y registro de la guerra del agua. Y que  la  filmacion requirio una carabela que luego fue donada a la municipalidad solo para perderse  al dia siguente de su exibicion en la plaza principal. La conferencia, que conto con la hospitalidad de Jhon Walker y Natalie Undeberger, puso en contacto historiadores, cineastas,  criticos literarios, arqueologos y activistas en un dialogo fructifero sobre diversos paises andino amazonicos.  Como sabemos, Julio Noriega prepara un libro sobre el cince andino. Cualquier interes al respecto,  y si desea colaborar, favor consultar la pagina Cine andino estudios y convocatoria  o escribir a Julio Noriega.  Apoyemos este loable proyecto.

The water war of Even the Rain (También la lluvia)

Julio E. Noriega

Knox College

Nowadays, there is a new way of making movies in Spanish.  Through the cooperation between Latin America and Spain and with the commercial purpose of producing, promoting as well as distributing their films internationally, such movies are reaching a broader market of Spanish speaking countries.  Even the Rain (También la lluvia) belongs to these international series of movies, taking place in Cochabamba, the second largest city of Bolivia, during the time of the water war, more specifically in the year 2000.  It is considered both Spanish and Mexican in terms of its production.  Spain is represented by Icíar Bollaín, the director, and by several other professional actors, including Luis Tosar.  In representation of Mexico stands Gael García Bernal.  There are also Bolivians, among them, a group of non-professional actors, playing the role of indigenous people, and the amateur Juan Carlos Aduviri, who successfully plays a double role as Hatuey, the first rebellious indigenous chief against Spaniards, and as Daniel, the water war leader in Cochabamba.

Since Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the New World and the first years of colonization to indigenous people appear to be the initial objective in this movie, the audience, as I thought myself, may wonder why the filmmaker Sebastian and his producer Costa have selected Cochabamba.  This city is Andean, not Caribbean.  Ironically Bolivia is a country without access to the ocean.  Neither Columbus nor Father Las Casas or Father Montesinos arrived to Bolivia.  Furthermore, Hatuey and his indigenous fellows were from la Hispaniola (the current countries of Haiti and Dominican Republic) and their native language was not Quechua, but Taino.  Considering all of that the choosing of Cochabamba, as the place where to shoot a film about Columbus and his Spaniard followers, did not make sense to me.

The challenges the moviemakers faced soon after their arrival, when they tried to establish a direct contact with different sectors of the society in Cochabamba, suddenly change the traditional perspective of Latin American history.  Currently reality portrays that there no longer exists a huge difference between the situation experienced by 17th Century natives in the Caribbean Islands and the struggle of the 21st Century indigenous people in the Andes.  The political power the Spanish crown used to have is now in the hands of modern transnational corporations; also the discourse of globalization mirrors the former one of Christianization and civilization; then there is the neoliberal plan of the world economy, it is quite subtle but very similar to the colonial system of taxation and monopoly; in addition, the English language has become the language of imperial power that Spanish was unable to retain; and, finally, the indigenous people are still subjugated because of their valuable natural resources: water, gas and oil, instead of gold and silver like in the past.  Many of their leaders have been tortured, incarcerated, and sometimes even executed as was chief Hatuey, who died from being tied up to a torture stake and then burned alive.  Contrastly, Father Las Casas’ legacy is alive, which is clearly manifested through liberation theology and the alliances indigenous people are able to make with national and international organizations that support their struggles for freedom.

As result of the aforementioned social and economic structure, it is legitimate to say, obviously from the indigenous perspective, that Latin American history should exclude the independence from Spain as a new period but rather divide it two crucial moments: pre-Columbian and colonial.  The pre-Columbian period is imagined as a utopian era, in which the simple community-based societies were free of the calamities that modern societies are suffering today.  The colonial period is, on the other hand, characterized by a simultaneous coexistence of diverse societies living during different degrees of historical development, such as medieval, capitalist, modern, and postmodern stages.  In this sense, Even the Rain (También la lluvia) seems to reinforce the thesis posited by Agustín Cueva, a renown historian from Ecuador, who proposed a more complex than a traditional way of understanding historical events, asserting that Latin American history is not chronological but accumulative, because it is able to overlap multiple layers with the experience of societies whose model of organization shows hundred of years difference.  This approach might have facilitated the director Icíar Bollaín to introduce the technique of a film-within-a-film, not only for developing three different histories in one, but also for blurring and fading the limits between present and past, fiction and reality, movie and documentary.

In spite of not having adopted a documentary format, Even the Rain (También la lluvia) presents a reliable account of Bolivia’s water war in Cochabamba.  The title itself comes from the regulation of Bolivian Law 2029, which was passed on October 29, 1999, privatizing drinking water and sanitation as well as prohibiting “peasants from constructing collection tanks to gather water from rain” for irrigation purposes.  Several passages about the social rebellion against the Government, resulting in mobilizations and violent confrontations between members of the Coalition in Defense of Water and the Bolivian police and army forces have been incorporated into the movie from Bolivian archives.  What the movie has left out, however, is the political work done before and after the war.  The war was not spontaneous neither its victory was due to the influential figure of an individual leader.  Organizing the rebellion took five years of effort to establish a social network between union leaders, neighborhood associations, coca grower peasants, and professional groups, in order to form a broader Coalition (collective defense of water: “water is ours”). Once the city of Cochabamba was taking over and the process of privatizing the water services had been stopped, the Coalition took a major and final responsibility for promoting and managing a unique kind of social enterprise: the “water company as a huge neighborhood and consumer cooperative”.  The Coalition was, indeed, the best solution for the water problem in Cochabamba.

Finally, Even the Rain brings up something important to learn from Bolivian native’s political experience.  Their understanding of democracy, beyond the electoral vote, as the system in which the power of making decisions that affect the majority of people should not be delegated to the elite of professional politicians, becomes not only possible but real, and perhaps it is worthy of globalization, imitation, and implementation.  Also noteworthy is the profound respect the Bolivian natives pay to water and other natural resources such as gas, coca leaves, and oil.  Water for them is sacred because our life itself is a drop of water.  That is why, according to Andean culture, people must be transparent and active like running water.  For them drinking and irrigation water belongs to all of us.  Nobody should be allowed to make profit by selling it. Interestingly enough, Oscar Olivera, one of the most popular leaders of the Coalition, believes it was not coincidential that he was born in a small town of the Bolivian altiplano, named Aguas de Castilla (Water of Castile) and his zodiac sign is Aquarius.

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