An intimate and powerful account of living in Bolivia during a time of crisis and change.
Long the obscure “Tibet of South America,” in the last few years Bolivia has emerged as a world flashpoint. CNN and The New York Times have shown images of Aymara women in bowler hats standing down tanks; citizen protests have ousted multinationals and two pro-globalization presidents. In December of 2005 Bolivians elected the first fully Indian president in the hemisphere. An aid-worker, William Powers has been eye-witness—and frequent participant—as this resource-rich, money-poor country struggles to save its Indian culture and its extraordinary rainforest, proving that an impoverished Third World country can be green.
When he arrives in the rainforest, he meets a dynamic Chiquitano Indian named Salvador who is fighting the extinction of his people. At the same time, the clock ticks for three multinational energy companies forced to curb global warming. Both goals depend upon the survival of a stretch of pristine jungle. But as Indians and oil giants join to launch the world’s largest Kyoto Protocol project, Salvador’s life is threatened by loggers collaborating with a racist Bolivian oligarchy. The quest for a single rainforest is subsumed in a movement of national liberation. Whispering in the Giant’s Ear gracefully weaves memoir, travel, history and reportage into an unforgettable chronicle of a nation attempting to engage the world without losing its soul.
Correction: In the book, I failed to properly acknowledge the tremendous book Culture Shock! Bolivia by author Mark Cramer which inspired me with its dazzling prose and contributed to the opening pages of Whispering. And do check out Cramer’s new Tropical Downs, “a novel of peril and misadventure in search for the elusive automatic bet” which is set in Bolivia. Enjoy!