Bolivien: Nicolasa Machaca Alejandro

Beautiful is my land from the outside. Bitter inside with its oppressed children.

— Nicolasa Machaca Alejandro

She was born a peasant and indigenous woman (1952). She tended the sheep and cows and cultivated potatoes and broad beans. She learned to read late. She was a reading promoter. She established Mother's Clubs where women could be trained. She unified the efforts of different organizations working to support the communities. She was arrested, tortured and was obliged to flee the country. She became a paramedic and returned to help the poor of Bolivia. She is Nicolasa Machaca.

She was an indigenous shepherdess of Bolivia. At age 15, she went to a meeting of the Mother's Club. She was not yet a mother, but they taught her to read. It was 1970. One year later, she became a reading promoter. Then she became the president of the Club. When they needed a venue, she found the plot and they built on it. They put up their looms and they studied. She was called to other places to organize Mother's Clubs. She received training in different crafts and taught others what she learned. At age 18, she was the leader of 12 communities. When she was 20, she was a representative of her province. As a handicrafts promoter, she traveled throughout the country and heard about the trade unions. But why was it such a scattered effort? And why were there no women in the trade unions? Her questions gave origin to the Single Trade Union Federation of Workers from Oruro. Identified as an activist, she was arrested and tortured. She was hurled from a light aircraft. Some farmers found her. A political leader helped her to flee the country. Her contacts said only a few words: “Go to that place and someone will pick you up.” In Peru, a doctor told her that it was necessary to amputate one of her feet and maybe the other one too. They took her to Cuba, where they managed to save both. She returned to Bolivia to continue learning, to increase her knowledge, to coordinate more efforts. People do not always pay attention to her because she is a woman, and indigenous. But she is stubborn–or enlightened.

Tomás Katari Polytechnic Institute Juana Azurduy Center Small Milk Producers Association