I was born in la Paz Bolivia, my childhood developed in El Alto know as the highest city of the world (4040 m. above sea level). In this treeless plateau the only services we had was a primary school a market, and of course a church. But I must admit I never missed other things and was because we didn’t know other things. Anyway one thing was very important, we lived in a kind of community, if you needed something the neighborhood was always there, if you had something the neighborhood can come to you.
We were very creative kids, we did manufacture our toys themselves, football balls from panty’s, cars from cans and plastic bottles, all that we needed we can do from nothing.
We also had in our backyards some kind of agriculture: potatoes, beans, and other vegetables, we had to deal with the crude weather conditions, with no means of calefaction, sometimes no water because it was frozen in the pipes, but life was in some way good, we did have each other, and of course many, many dreams….
I study architecture in the University of La Paz, the years I spend over there were very conflictive, long periods of dictatorships with closed universities, periods of democracy rule by the IFM, meaning poor investments on education, but nevertheless I studied architecture in about 10 years, design (aesthetics) was something superficial, the hard core was the social and political agenda, we had to thing only about strategies, dreaming that our projects will be buildable, step by step. An urban plan was an utopia, but we use to think about the future every moment, we had also to think about the process to show the direction of the plan, and to conquer that future. When it was possible to built, we did it with our hands in poor neighborhoods were governmental actions never came.
I left Bolivia after my studies, and I enter illegally North America, over there I worked in a construction company, in the beginning as a mason, was a very hard work specially in the winter, in a couple of months I did understand some English, although at certain age is more difficult to learn languages. Once I had the opportunity to meet the Project Manager of the construction, I told him that I was an architect and I would like to work in the office. I become a draftsman, an as I improved my English I could understand better the technical specifications, suddenly I saw myself making accurate drawings of construction details to transmit the ideas and details to the laborers (Spanish speaking laborers), the abstraction of the specifications were substitute by perspective drawings of every single detail some of which were so detailed that I could precise the position and size of every screw, the laborers were very happy and they performed their tasks much better. I become Project Manager of some small projects, many of the laborers over there are South-American immigrants who doesn’t speak English, communicating the ideas with drawings to them was perfect, and after some years of working with this method I built some hundred thousand squares meters.
In America I understood that any line you do in the paper could be built and was built, there was no time to think about the future, everything I was drawing was being built, was becoming a building.
Years later I immigrateto the Netherlands, things were very different I couldn’t get any job in the field of architecture my years of experience in construction, all the projects I built were not a good curriculum, the culture of architecture was something else, that it wasn’t reachable for me, but also the barrier of the language was huge.
But my spirit did help me to look for other opportunities, I applied to the Berlage Institute of Amsterdam, was very difficult to enter, they asked for my portfolio, I didn’t have any, I had to prove to them that I was capable of being a Master in Architecture, I was tested for a couple of months, and my problems were big, I didn’t know who was Rem Koolhaas, I didn’t know anything about architecture, every morning at six a.m. before the classes started I was watching videos of architecture, lectures of Masters, reading every book of the library, everything was new.
After my studies at the Berlage Institute I worked as employee in several offices in Amsterdam, the requirements to get a permit to live in the Netherlands didn’t allow me to be a free lancer, or to start my own office, as Bolivian citizen I had to show that I was a valuable citizen, thus I should have a permanent contract from an office in order to live in The Netherlands, every year I had to renew my permit to stay, some years later I did get my permanent permit and now I am a Dutch citizen, but the only way of having it was giving up my Bolivian nationality.