What made Samaipata one of the most attractive villages in Bolivia?
Something in the air, the setting between the Cloud Forest of National Park Amboro and the valleys, the climate, the racial mix (many Indian tribes had been mixed before the Spanish and the Sephardic Jews came) developed into a typical valley culture (Valluno), the immigration from the High Plateau and the higher valleys (farmers, builders and market women), 17 different nationalities, resulted in a melting pot of influences. This continuous process did not ruin the authenticity of Samaipata. The locals of today have sometimes to swallow something strange and new, but after that they just feel this is home all right and everyone is grateful to live here.
So that’s why so many foreigners live here?
It's a wonderful & relatively open-minded village. 8% of the present residents are foreign immigrants from the rest of South America, USA and Europe. This trend was started 25 years ago and has increased over the last 5 years. They opted for Bolivia because of the growing mental poverty and stress in their country of origin. Before that Eastern Europeans and Lebanese settled here, fully integrated; a tourist no longer recognizes them as such.
Their motive was to flee the poverty and religious tensions.
So the village and its surroundings are a haven for young travelers between 20 and 30, often from good middle class homes. They fall in love with a Latino, often start a family and continue to live here. Couples and families between 35 and 45 seize their second chance and a handful of lively pensionados give their color to this whole. As these foreigners know what travel means (Bolivians are no travelers at all), they were the great stimulus to develop tourism into the key economic activity for an important part of the local population: from farmers to masons, market women to Internet cafés, from weavers to guides and taxi drivers.
How is your relationship with the community of Samaipata?
When we came to live here 25 years ago we were eager to plunge into the Bolivian way of live. So we have always been involved in all kind of activities with the village. In the past those in power (politicians, school heads and feudal types) could have shot us because of our typical straight Dutch approach. Now they are used to it due to the sense of humor we have in common with the Bolivian people.
In the 80s we started an organic horticulture association (Agroplan) together with small farmers, and made a regional project out of it that’s been financed for 15 years receiving technical assistance from agronomists and small loans. Marga did cooking classes with women groups so they would use their own vegetables and herbs in their daily soups, salads and sauces.
For 2 periods Pieter has been treasurer of the water cooperative, providing a sound financial policy by installing water meters and searching for new springs in the mountains.
Alternately both of us have been director of the Cámara Hotelera Samaipata in the 90s, realizing cooperation between and strengthening of all sectors involved in tourism: hotels, restaurants, guides, arts & crafts.
From 2000 on we focus on cultural events, music festivals (from the 60s & 70s), classical concerts and high-quality popular music, and the establishment of ASAC: Asociación Samaipata Cultural, the cultural association which became active since 2006, organizing a variety of cultural events for residents & visitors of the region, and art education for children and youngsters of the village: theater, music, plastic arts, film, photography, combining traditional and global trends.
Besides we are always asked to give good use to small private funds. Nowadays we are concentrating us on the small farming communities around Samaipata: A water tank, a plaza, a school, paintwork, dental instruments, a new roof, bathroom hospital,...
What has Samaipata to offer for tourists and longer stays?
Traditional and artistic Arts & Crafts, a variety of restaurants, hotels and houses to let, organic vegetables and fruit preserves, gift shops, festivals and cultural events, blessed peace and a general feeling of wellbeing, antique altar in the church, a pleasant shady Plaza, daily market, excursions, hikes and tours in a beautiful region, a favorable climate, hospitable people, buses and taxis, chess palace, cultural center, museum and archaeological ruins (on the World Heritage list of UNESCO), first aid medical health care in the hospital and excellent private dentists, massage and meditation, internet cafés (no ADSL), Spanish classes for foreigners and money by credit card machine at the local cooperative.