And yet - the average Bolivian is part of the global community, and as curious about what goes on in our planet as any citizen of the world no matter where she / he lives.
When a friend of mine suggested that "Los Tiempos", one of the most prestigious newspapers in Bolivia, publish a feature about sharks and the perils they are facing, I was not so sure whether or not I would be able offer local reporters an appealing story for their readers.
I was very wrong.
The chief editor of the paper's Sunday magazine "Oh!", Maria Renee Canelas, assigned reporter and assistant editor Maria Renee Cortes Barrientos*) to interview me and do the job.
Bolivia is full of surprises. It is a poor and 'backward' country but you can run into most remarkable people here. Maria Renee is such an individual.
This young lady is as focused as a professional as are the most seasoned reporters in London, Berlin or New York. She is about to finish school, and will graduate from Universidad Privada Boliviana with a BSc in Communications.
The next goal this ambitious and talented "cochabambina" (= native of Cochabamba) has set for herself is to become a magazine editor and broaden her horizon in Europe, probably in Paris, where she is planning to obtain a master's degree in literature, a passion she has consistently nurtured since she was in her mid-teens.
Maria Renee, aka "Quita", did her home-work before spending maybe two hours talking to me, asking me good questions, and showing the type of empathy only full-blooded journalists feel when they are all fired-up about a new project.
The interview went so well that at the end of the session Quita told me that she felt extremely motivated to swim with tiger sharks next year!!!! Would you believe that???
If I only could turn journalists into confirmed shark champions as easily as I did with Quita it would boost the cause for our beloved finned creatures tremendously.
Here is Quita's article - if you don't speak Spanish just have a look at the layout and the images.
We need the support of enthusiastic, committed reporters like Quita; we need to win them over to make a difference on the general public's perception of the vilified sharks; we need them to tell their readers that to save our oceans we have to keep the sharks alive - we need:
"Journalists for Sharks!"
*) Maria Renee is the grand-daughter of Air Force General Rene Barrientos, a charismatic Bolivian president in the sixties. My father was Barrientos' flight instructor in the late thirties - in return, Barrientos taught him a few rather hefty sayings in Quechua, the ancient language of the Incas, which my old man considered a fair enough deal... :-)