The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Competing Projects for the Future
As a young girl growing up in the agricultural and pastoral community of Qaqachaka, in the northern Potosí region of the department of Oruro, Elvira Espejo learned many of the traditional arts cultivated in her community. Hearing the myths and legends passed down by her elders, she became a fine narrator. At age ten, she was selected as a finalist in the Aymara Literature Contest sponsored by the Casa de las Américas in Havana, Cuba. She went on to study at the National Academy of Fine Arts and became an exceptionally versatile creative artist. She works in multiple media and is well known as a painter, weaver, storyteller, poet, and singer-songwriter. As a researcher and writer, she has also collaborated on studies of Aymara culture, based on her knowledge of Qaqachaka. Given her remarkable trajectory, she became the director of the National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore in La Paz in 2013.
As a poet, Espejo writes in Aymara, Quechua, and Spanish, and her work delves deeply into her Andean roots. The poems that follow—from her collection Phaqar kirki / T’ikha takiy / Canto a las flores (Song for the Flowers)—draw from her intimate familiarity with the material and symbolic world of plants, landscapes, textiles, gender relations, and sentimental life in the Andean countryside. They bring out the intrinsic resonance of the native languages and are written in a condensed, piercing style that is highly original.