Jose' Maria Paz Duran

About Bolivia, Family and Exchange Experience

Our program at our January 17th meeting was our inbound exchange student, Jose’ Maria Paz Duran. Jose is from Bolivia and he is 17 years old.
Jose' Maria
Bolivia has a population of 11.5 million people.  It is divided into nine departments, similar to our states.  At one time the country was much larger, but its neighbors waged war and Bolivia lost territory including its territory on the Pacific Ocean.  It is a land locked country.
Location of Bolivia in South America
The country has two capital cities.  La Paz is the seat of government, but Sucre is the official capital.  La Paz has a population of 950,000.  Many of the departments share the name of its principal city.  La Paz is in the western part of Bolivia, in La Paz Department.
Also, in the west is the city and Department of Oruro.  The city has a population of about 285,000.  The City and Department of Potosi is in the southwest corner of the country.  During the Spanish colonization, Potosi was the largest city in Bolivia, and was larger than New York City.  A mountain near the city was rich with gold, a prize for the Spanish.  Enough gold was removed from the mountain that it would have been enough to bridge from Bolivia to Spain.
The city and Department of Cochabamba is near the center of the country. It has a population of about 300,000.  It has a large statue of Jesus Christ similar and a bit smaller than the one in Rio de Janeiro, known as El Cristo de la Concordia.  The most predominant religion in Bolivia is Catholic.
Just south of the Cochabamba Department is the Department of Chuquisaca.  It is where the capital of Sucre is located.  It has a population of about 300,000; and is known as the “white city” because of the white building material used for many of the buildings.
The northern Departments are in the Amazon region.  Pando Department is the furthest north and has a population of 55,000. Just south of Pando is the Beni Department. Its population is 150,000.
Santa Cruz Department is the largest in area and is located along the eastern border of Bolivia. The city of Santa Cruz is the 2nd largest city behind La Paz.  It has a population of about 900,000. The Department extends from the Andes on the West to Brazil on the east.
Jose’ is from the City of Tarija which is in the Department of the same name.  It is the southern-most Department, bordering Argentina. It has a population of about 200,000.  Jose showed us photos of some of the local attractions including a structure shaped like a wine glass in which visitors can climb to the top for a view.  The area is known for its fine wines.
With the Catholic heritage, Tarija has a couple celebrations such as the carnival, which is much like Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  There is a nearby salt desert known as the Uyuni Salt Flats. When it rains standing water creates what looks like a very large mirror.
Jose’s father is also Jose’ Maria and he is a bank manager.  His mother, Claudia, has an accounting degree but has chosen to be a stay at home mom.  He has two brothers, Mariano age 13 and Juan age 6.  His only time in USA before coming on the exchange was a trip to Disney World for his brother’s birthday.
His Family
His high school in Bolivia is LaSalle.  It is private since the public schools tend to be old and attended by those families who can’t afford the private school.  The school year is February through December, since the seasons are the reverse from the USA.  Jose’ has completed the 11th grade in his home country and will go back for his 12th year.  During the 11th and 12th years the students are expected to learn and demonstrate a traditional dance as a graduation requirement.
The country of Bolivia is one Rotary District.  Every Department has at least one Rotary Club.  The Rotary Club of Tarija was established 100 years ago.  It not only sponsored Jose’, but 8 other exchange students.  Four, including Jose’, are in the USA.  There is one in Canada, three in France, and one in Belgium.
Jose’s grandfather is a Rotarian and he suggested the program 4 or5 years ago, but Jose’ didn’t really consider the program seriously until one of his friends came back from the USA and shared his great experience.
Learning English was a requirement.  Although the school had classes, they are not very good.  Jose’ attended English classes at an institute located at the American Center for 3 years.  He learned in January or February that he was going to a club in District 5050, and he was happy to learn later that he was going to the US to be hosted by the Rotary Club of Arlington.
The District currently has 12 inbound exchange students in the US and Canada.
This is Jose’s first time away from his family and he was quite worried.  The last day was very hard as he was shown off by family and friends at the airport.  Upon arrival in Seattle he walked right by Dave with a welcome sign, worried about his luggage. He was tapped on the shoulder as he awaited his luggage, and he then met his first host parents Dave and Kay Duskin.  He wondered what he had gotten into when he learned that Dave had trouble locating his car in the Sea-tac parking garage.
Jose’ is now living with the Rolfs and in the spring he will move to the DeVries’. He thanked members of the club who have provided him experiences.  He learned it was all about the Cougars at the Duskin home and he had a few trips across the state to Pullman for games.  He’s learned a little about American football.
Jose’s has had two uncles serve as President of Bolivia.  One of them served when John F Kennedy was president and met with him.  Jose’ has a photo of the two together.  However, given threats on his Uncle’s life which resulted in him leaving the country, the current family members have no desire to get into politics.  There is a currently a lot of unrest in Bolivia because the current president is trying to ignore the term limits of the Constitution and has passed a law overriding the Constitution.
Jose’ will be hosted by our club until early June.  He is hopeful of doing a USA tour with other exchange student before returning home.  He is always eager to see things and go places, so think of him when you are doing something special.  He is going to Hawaii with the Rolfs and others next week.