August 20, 2007

The Bolivian Blogsphere: An Explosive Reaction

MABB © ®

With much happiness I am observing the explosive development of the Bolivian blogsphere. In a matter of four years (roughly) the number of Bolivian bloggers has increased tremendously and blogging has been adopted as an innovative form of expression. Initiatives are springing everywhere and participation is incredible.

I remember back in 2003, there were just a handful of blogs about Bolivia, mine, Ciao! (now Pronto* and Barrio Flores, for example. Most of them, were written by Bolivians living outside Bolivia (such as myself). One day I discover a way to search blogger profiles by country. I tried it and worked. From that search I found another handful of bloggers, but this time, the authors were Bolivians living in Bolivia. It was then when I decided to start collecting links to Bolivian blogs. That way, I thought, I could contribute to the growth of what I called the boli-blogsphere. People interested in blogging, especially Bolivian pioneers such as Joe and La vida en una fotografia would have the opportunity to have the list available to them, see who else was blogging and perhaps get in touch with each other. But most importantly, they would provide a window into Bolivia through their writing. This was one important aspect, since at the time there wasn't much information about Bolivia in the Internet.

After that initial search, I rapidly discovered more blogs, such as El Forastero and Rocko. Thereafter, there was a rapid development in the boli-blogsphere. El Forastero wrote an article in October 2004 listing various Bolivian blogs. This was going to be the birth hour of the first blog about Bolivian blogs. On July 2005, El Forastero and Almada de Noche started Blogsbolivia. Since then, this site has become one of the premier sites to find Bolivian bloggers. 2005, was the explosive year for the boli-blogsphere. At the hand of Blogsbolivia, Bolivia started to be interested on this phenomenon. There were articles published in the local press and some attention was given by Radio.

From this point on, the Bolivian bloggers themselves started to claim ownership of the blogsphere. Many events were planned and initiatives started, such as Pacena, Fricachos y Blogs with the help of Quintacho and Rocko, which promoted the first meet between Bolivian bloggers. The Libro Libre initiative, which was organized by the people at Mundo al Revez (if I am not mistaken). This initiative sought to support, promote and give incentives for people to read books. The idea was interesting, taken I think from Bookcrossing, people were supposed to 'liberate' a book in any place and at any time.

At the moment the boli-blogsphere has become an exciting place. I have read that blogs like Blogsbolivia or Boliviaweb blogs have more than 500 blogs in their databases. Considering that just a few years ago there were just a handful, it is amazing to see how much the boli-blogsphere has grown.

The latest initiative is Bloguivianos, the first national convention of Bolivian bloggers. It is supposed to take part in Santa Cruz on September 1, 2007. According to the organizers, they are expecting more than a hundred participants. Additionally, another project, Voces Bolivianas is offering stipends to people who want to attend the conference. Voces Bolivianas is another exciting project supported by Global Voices through its Rising Voices initiative. The project is led by our long time friend, Eddie Avila of Barrio Flores.

As you can see, the boli-blogsphere is taking shape and, as I believe, conscience as well. The fact that Bolivians, specially the youth, have received blogging with open arms is encouraging. As I said earlier, this does not only gives a medium for average Bolivians to express themselves, but it also has built a window from where the world can look into Bolivian culture, politics, society and economy. The only factor that might be hindering this development is the language barrier. Granted that the Bolivian blogsphere has grown at an incredible rate, it is mainly in Spanish. My take is, if more languages would be included, the reach would be enormous. I know there are countless of people in the world interested in what is going on in Bolivia, but the majority of them do not speak the language, so they have to rely on people like me to get their information. If the range of languages would increase, it would only expand the access from other parts of the world and the exposure of Bolivian bloggers would be larger as well. With anxiety and hope I am waiting for the first bi-lingual blog.