A Man of the People: Bolivia’s Rolando Mendoza

Today, my thoughtful, easy going inspiration of a husband shares his write up of a recent interview with one of Bolivia’s finest leaders. Both men are humble and sincere, less the type to write for the world and more the type to be out living their convictions on local streets, day after day.
I’m grateful to share their story with you. -Bethany


A Man of the People: My Interview with Public Servant Rolando Mendoza
By Ted Rydmark

While in Bolivia, we spent a week on work-exchange with the Mendoza-Donlon Family.

Rolando Mendoza has extensive experience as a public servant. He is the former mayor of Mallasa (a suburb town of La Paz), the former Head of Social Services for the Municipality of La Paz (metro population 2.3 million), and is the current Person in Charge of Planning and Investment for the Ministry of Planning for the Bolivian Government.

When he was elected Mayor of Mallasa, he was the first non-party “man of the people” to serve in that office. His success as mayor resulted in his appointment a Head of Social Services for La Paz.

I took the opportunity sit down with Rolando and ask him about his experiences as a civic politician. Special thanks to Bethany for recording the conversation and to Rolando’s wife, Emma, for translating.

Ted: What was most challenging about working as head of Social Services in La Paz?
Rolando: It was most challenging to really know what was going on and to develop plans to transform the situation and make it better. Because we were working for the benefit of young people, children, and old people, I had this desperation to really make their lives better and make an impact – fast. I desired that my programs would become institutionalized and consolidated and would last over time.

Rolando’s position lasted four years, during which time he accomplished much. As the Head of Social Services for the Municipality of La Paz, Rolando’s responsibilities included five broad areas: Sports, Health (including infrastructure, equipment, and future planning), Education (including the planning and building of schools), Citizen Rights (equivalent to Civil Rights), and Citizen Security. During this time he was directly responsible for over 800 municipal staff. Continue reading

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Lima, Too

A split down the middle of circumstance divides society in Lima, and we were offered the opportunity to run headlong into the challenge of wrapping our minds around the schism between rich and poor.

For perspective, a Peruvian woman working diligently in the city as a maid in a high class household might make 30 Peruvian Soles per day, or S/600 per month. In US dollars, our current exchange rate puts that at $11.10/day, or $222/month.

A trip to the grocery store for Ted and me to buy olives, cheese, plums, a bottle of (cheap) red wine, and a few fresh baked rolls came to S/53.80, or $19.90. Nearly double a maid’s daily wages.

Our Servas hostess, Anna, arranged for us a visit with her housekeeper Dadi, to see her under-construction home and gain a clearer picture of life outside the capital’s popular districts. During our travels, it’s important to us to see beyond the tourist cityscapes.

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