Alejandra Pau reports for Pagina Siete:
The seven places in Bolivia that share the name Berlin
And not one, but seven “Berlins”. For hidden paths, in the almost desert Andes or the dense Amazonian there is a town or a farm named as the capital of Germany.
Worldwide, there are over 100 places called Berlin, seven of them are in Bolivia, particularly in the departments of La Paz, Oruro, Santa Cruz and Beni.
The reasons why they adopted that name, in many cases, are a mystery, and others have several hypotheses, but their relationship with the German migration in Bolivia is intimate.
“Our compatriots came here around the nineteenth century that continued in the twentieth century (…). A flow of Germans, who for various reasons left the European continent to seek fortune, a new life in Bolivia and other neighboring countries were given. The vast majority were merchants who came from the ports,” says German Ambassador to Bolivia, Peter Linder.
There is a collection of places called Berlin in Bolivia, as facilitated by the German Embassy in La Paz, based on the book Von Berlin nach Berlin über Berlin (From Berlin for Berlin to Berlin), Harry Hampel (Editorial Rütten und Loening, Berlin 1998).
The information was gathered by a team of producers in the European country, who visited these places around the globe to become part of the documentary World Wide Berlin, a project available online (http://worldwideberlin.com/de/feature/bolivia/).
In Bolivia, the place chosen was Berlin Center, department of Oruro.
The “Berlins” in Bolivia
Did you know you can travel from La Paz to Berlin without getting on a plane? 200 kilometers west of the city of Oruro, in the highlands and 3,800 meters above sea level is the Estancia Berlin Center. Between 15-20 families live there and raise livestock. Around the square, there are simple houses, a church and a well.
There is electricity but no running water. The ten people living in the Berlin Oruro grow potatoes and graze around 1,000 llamas.
In the Bolivian Amazon, 20 kilometers east of Riberalta, in Beni, there is another Berlin.
Willi Noack, which according to registries, worked at least ten years as a consultant to the regional government of Beni personally knew the locality.
Noack wrote that in the late nineteenth century, about Nicolas Suarez, owner of vast rubber plantations, recruited overseas workers. Many Germans were of humble origin who received some land around the plantations and settled in the place. In 1954, lived in Berlin 30 other families whose livelihood was agriculture.
The “Berlin” Beni
Two other “Berlins” are in Beni. New Berlin, 10 kilometers east of Puerto Siles, is a small town on the Mamore river. And finally, Estancia Berlin, which is rather a farm, is located ten miles north of San Borja.
Approximately 300 kilometers northeast of the city of Santa Cruz is the lagoon Berlin, located in a jungle region, about 40 kilometers from the border with Brazil. Access is gained only by aero-taxi.
The ambassador said that the establishment of the German colonies in Bolivia was initially related to mining in the west. In the Amazon was the rubber trade and river transport. It was in those places where they settled, baptizing them in the name of Berlin.
Linder specifies that this is due to sentimentality with the Germans for their land. “It’s loyalty to family, education, customs they had and have the Germans”.
This contrasted, in many cases, with the sacrificial life that took some of his countrymen as to the climatic and geographical conditions, access to food and transportation. For more than a century “a cold beer could not be found, for example,” says Ambassador jokingly.
The paceños’ “Berlins”
In the department of La Paz there are two other “Berlins”. The village Berlin is located in the province Ballivián, which is accessed by a dirt road that deviates from Caranavi-Rurrenabaque stretch, approximately 7.5 kilometers from Sapecho.
The village has about 30 houses. None of the people know who gave the name or reason, and fewer have heard of the German capital.
Near Palos Blancos, north of Caranavi, another town of the same name.
“A lot of people have lost connection with the name Berlin and where it comes from and has no relation to the German city,” says Linder.
The Germans migrated to the largest cities in Bolivia or moved to other countries. Those who remained, formed family with Bolivians.
The documentary Berlin World Wide
A unique project crossmedia (storytelling on different platforms) have successfully connected to the German capital to another “Berlins” through the World Wide documentary Berlin.
The documentary chronicles what happens during 24 hours in seven different “Berlins” worldwide. Information is available online (http://worldwideberlin.com/de/feature/bolivia/). In http://www.worldwideberlin.de there are 11 interactive rides through different “Berlins”.
Worldwide Berlin is a production of Berlin Producers, in cooperation with the Berlin-Brandenburg and broadcaster Deutsche Welle, and supported by Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg.