Alejandro Fernandez Gutierrez ’13M, a Fulbright Scholar and graduate student in Arcadia's International Peace and Conflict Resolution program, contributes to the blog of the documentary film project Nosotros los de la Saya (We of the Saya): Pushing for Afro-Bolivian Existence. The blog features commentary in both English and Spanish about the experiences of Bolivians of African ancestry.
Fernandez's piece "Connecting My Soul with the Land and My Heart With the Ocean" addresses the nine days he spent in in Accra, Ghana, as part of Dr. Kalenda Eaton's ID course Literature and Culture in Postcolonial Ghana. Students explored the cultures of Ghana and (re)considered their understanding of Ghanaian culture through the presentation of its literary heritage.
From the April 8, 2012, article:
Those nine beautiful days were like being in los Yungas. I cannot believe how similar Accra was to Los Yungas. I heard many people, especially academics, say that Los Yungas was a good place for first Africans, because of the climate. As an African Descendant, I cannot understand why the colony brought Africans to work in Potosi when they knew that they were coming from a hot place. Was it that hard to understand that Black people needed an environment similar their home? This made me sad, and reminded me of a powerful quote by W.E.B. Du Bois. He says, “sometimes it is faith in life, sometimes a faith in death, sometimes assurance of boundless justice in some fair world beyond. But whichever it is, the meaning is always clear: that sometimes, somewhere, men will judge men by their souls and not by their skins.
I was amazed with the people. Everywhere we go it was like being the villages of Los Yungas - Tocana, Mururata, Coroico, Chicaloma- everywhere everybody was black! I remember one day I was having lunch in the cafeteria at the University of Accra, and a guy was sitting alone, so I asked if I could sit. He said in a very friendly voice, “sure my brother, this place is for everybody.” When I looked at him it was like looking at some of my uncles or cousins in Bolivia. I also had a picture with a woman who was carrying her baby in her back. That remained me a picture that I have with my mom and my sister. The kids were just like the kids in Los Yungas, similar smile, happiness and kindness.
The food was so delicious. Every time that I had rice, plantains (platanito frito), chicken, beans, and vegetables. I had to have that dish- it was just delicious! Something that was very unique from Ghana was the Fufu, which is mashed plantains. Making fufu requires a lot of work between two people, because they have to pound it a wooden bowl. This is something that we do not have in Bolivia, but rice, plantains, chicken, beans, and vegetables are pretty much Afro-Bolivian food.