Photo Credit: Shannon DeCelle

From environmental justice in Ecuador, to Indigenous rights in Mexico, and revolution and change in Cuba, this summer Global Exchange is offering several Reality Tours that will highlight important issues around the world.

Join us as we meet with local leaders and movements to learn about the innovative ways communities and individuals are organizing for social change. Return with a new understanding of the issues and, perhaps most importantly, new ways to engage and support these inspiring movements from home.

Cuba: Revolution and Change

May 18-27, 2018

Be a witness to a rapidly changing Cuba, while engaging in dialogue with local economists, historians, doctors and teachers. Learn about the Cuban revolution while traveling across the country. We’ll start our historical adventure in Santiago where the Cuban Revolution began with the 26th of July Movement. While in Santiago, learn more about the events leading up to the Cuban Revolution as well as celebrate Santiago’s annual Carnival! Continue on to the Sierra Maestra mountains, beautiful Camaguey, Santa Clara and then to Havana.

Haiti: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

June 2-11, 2018

Join us as we examine the impact that foreign actors, like NGOs and volunteers, have had on disaster relief and development in Haiti. Led by Rea Dol, a Haitian educator and grassroots activist, we will engage local organizations and individuals working to sustainably build education, health, and financial services in their communities.

Ecuador: Social & Environmental Justice from the Andes to the Amazon

July 13-21, 2018

This delegation takes a hard-hitting dive into local and international efforts to bring environmental and social justice to the Andes and the Amazon. You will visit Chevron/Texaco’s toxic waste pits and see, firsthand, the impacts of extractive industries on the environment and Indigenous communities. You’ll visit the Yasuni national park, a UNESCO declared world-biosphere reserve that is under renewed attack for its crude oil. And you will meet with a range of actors resisting in creative and powerful ways, including community run ecotourism programs that are local economic alternatives to natural resource extraction.

The Guelaguetza Festival: Indigenous Resilience in Oaxaca, Mexico

July 19-28, 2018

Explore Indigenous resilience through food, culture, and social movements in Oaxaca — home to one of the largest Indigenous populations in Mexico. During this 10 day trip, you will meet with community leaders, activists, artisans, artists, archaeologists, and experience resistance in different ways. Taste the region’s renowned gastronomic traditions rooted in farm-to-table cuisine and mezcal production. See the preservation of pre-Columbian artifacts and practices, including a visit to the Monte Alban ruins. Attend the Guelaguetza festival, a yearly celebration of the customs of Oaxaca’s Indigenous communities.

Peru: Ancient Civilizations and Modern Day Peru

July 6-17, 2018

Travel from Lima to the Sacred Valley and learn along the way about Peru’s ancient civilizations and contemporary social challenges, all while tasting the country’s world-famous cuisine. From Lima’s informal settlements to Andean villages, you will meet with Indigenous cooperatives, artisans, and NGOs working to empower women, practice fair trade, and preserve their traditions.

Chiapas: Indigenous Rights & Environmental Justice

August 3 – 11, 2018

From a base in the colonial town of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, our delegation will travel to surrounding Indigenous and campesino communities to learn about Chiapas’s long history of mass mobilization and collective resistance to the Mexican government’s repressive imposition of neoliberal agendas. We will see, firsthand, how popular movements like the Zapatistas organize for economic, environmental, and Indigenous justice while getting a unique look into their time-honored traditions.

Bolivia: Spanish Study & Cultural Immersion

August 6-21, 2018

Looking to pair language school with cultural immersion and social justice? During this trip, we will spend mornings in class learning (or brushing up on) Spanish while exploring social justice issues through guest lectures, debates, and group discussions. During our afternoons, we will explore Cochabamba via visits with activists, scientists, journalists, artists, and government officials. On weekends, we’ll head to the Bolivian countryside and learn about climate change, food justice and the coca industry. All the while, you will live with a Bolivian family, providing an intimate opportunity to practice Spanish in everyday situations and get a better feel for the rhythm of Bolivian life.

I had the good fortune of being welcomed to Global Exchange as a sales associate at the San Francisco Fair Trade Store a few weeks before Global Exchange’s 25th Anniversary celebration. I met many new people and felt an inkling my new job would suit me in ways I didn’t know yet.

Since then, I’ve learned more about how Fair Trade works than I imagined I could. While buying Fair Trade products has always been a way for me to support sustainable economic and environmental practices for workers whose livelihood depends on it, it’s now a way to connect with people in a way I didn’t before. I’m beginning to feel the andes gifts

I like things: fashion, texture, beautifully crafted, soulful goods I can wrap around my shoulders, press my cheek to, or bounce thoughtfully in the cup of my palm. But things are things. I thought, Fair Trade products are still things.

That’s the nature of it, but there’s also that feeling you get knowing the story behind each handmade item…the love. For example, when you hold an Andes Gifts alpaca wool hat in all its squish-soft, insulating gorgeousness, and you know it’s making a positive impact on people’s lives and the environment, it becomes more than a thing, it becomes a gift.

challenge-header-2Andes Gifts, based in Davis, California, provides free knitting instruction, as well as successful micro-loans to increase earning capacity, to women in rural indigenous communities in Bolivia and Peru. Within some of the most economically impoverished areas in the western hemisphere, Andean communities often unravel due to disjointed childcare, work, and family structure.

The opportunity to knit colorful, intricate designs and make a living through Andes Gifts helps these red andes giftscommunities stay together.

Knitters work in their homes or in co-ops where they have access to the resources they need, and work as much as they need to at their own pace. Women can stay close to their children and participate in local traditions. Knitters provide for themselves and their families, and make statements like, “I plan on knitting until I’m a grandmother”. That’s a loving thing for all it’s implications.


We invite you to visit our Fair Trade stores in Berkeley and San Francisco, CA to see for yourself the beauty of Andes Gifts.

Congrats to Popular Choice Prize Winner, Marie Bodnar!

Congrats to Popular Choice Prize Winner, Marie Bodnar!

We’ve had an exciting spring this year hosting the 2013 Reality Tours Photo Contest. All in all, we received 96 photos taken on Reality Tours to countries all over the world.

Your photos inspired us and others, sparked a dialogue, and are beautiful images of the amazing places and people you visited on Reality Tours.

Meet the Popular Choice Winner

Voting for the Popular Choice winner has now closed, and we are happy to announce that Marie Bodnar has won the Popular Choice contest with a total of 63 votes (“like” on Facebook) by midnight on April 13th for her captivating image of a child in Afghanistan. From the comments section on Facebook (where the photo contest took place) one person noted that “you just get drawn in and wonder what the child is thinking.”

Congratulations Marie! You’ll be receiving your special prize soon; a Fair Trade gift package!

Who’s on Second?

Photo by Shannon DeCelle, Bolivia.

Photo by Shannon DeCelle, Bolivia.

In close second for the Popular Choice contest were beautiful photos from Shannon DeCelle from a Food First and Global Exchange Reality Tour to Bolivia.

Shannon describes one of her photos: “He was having fun sharing his flower with me. We explored the area near Tunupa, a dormant volcano (distant  left in photo). I was overwhelmed and felt closer to everything for that moment.”

Want to check out all the photo submissions? You can see all of the photos on the Reality Tours Facebook page. If you haven’t had the chance already, we invite you to browse through the stunning photo entries.

Grand Prize Winner Announcement

The contest excitement isn’t over yet! We’ll be announcing the Grand Prize Winner, who will receive a $500 discount off a Reality Tour, on May 9th to commemorate Global Exchange’s Human Rights Award.

Take ActionTake Action!

  • Consider joining us on the upcoming “Women Making Change” Reality Tour to Afghanistan!
  • If you will be in the San Francisco Bay Area, join us May 9th for the Human Rights Award to celebrate the work of Honorees Noam Chomsky, Crystal Lameman, and People’s Choice winner Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

The following post was written by 2011 Human Rights Awards Awardee, Pablo Solon. Solon was present in Durban, South Africa where the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP17) was being held. You can read updates from South Africa by Shannon Biggs, Director of Global Exchange’s Community Rights Program, who was also present in Durban. 

By Pablo Solon

After 9 days of negotiations there is no doubt that we saw this movie before. It is the third remake of Copenhagen and Cancun. Same actors. Same script. The documents are produced outside the formal negotiating scenario . In private meetings, dinners which the 193 member states do not attend. The result of these meetings is known only on the last day.

In the case of Copenhagen it was at two in the morning after the event should have already ended. In Cancun, the draft decision just appeared at 5 p.m. on the last day and was not opened for negotiation, not even to correct a comma. Bolivia stood firm on both occasions. The reason: the very low emission reduction commitments of industrialized countries that would lead to an increase in average global temperatures of more than 4° Celsius. In Cancun, Bolivia stood alone. I could not do otherwise. How could we accept the same document that was rejected in Copenhagen, knowing that 350,000 people die each year due to natural disasters caused by climate change? To remain silent is to be complicit in genocide and ecocide. To accept a disastrous document in order not to be left alone is cowardly diplomacy. Even more so when one trumpets the “people’s diplomacy” and has pledged to defend the “People’s Agreement” of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in Bolivia last year.

Durban will be worse than Copenhagen and Cancun. Two days before the close of the meetings, the true text that is being negotiated is not yet known. Everyone knows that the actual 131-page document is just a compilation of proposals that were already on the table in Panama two months ago. The formal negotiations have barely advanced. The real document will appear toward the end of COP17.

But more importantly, the substance of the negotiations remains unchanged from Copenhagen. The emission reduction pledges by developed countries are still 13% to 17% based on 1990 levels. Everyone knows that this is a catastrophe. But instead of becoming outraged, they attempt to sweeten the poison. The wrapper of this package will be the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and a mandate for a new binding agreement. The substance of the package will be the same as in Copenhagen and Cancun: do virtually nothing during this decade in terms of reducing emissions, and get a mandate to negotiate an agreement that will be even weaker than the Kyoto Protocol and that will replace it in 2020. “The Great Escape III” is the name of this movie, and it tells the story of how the governments of rich countries along with transnational corporations are looking to escape their responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Instead of becoming stronger, the fight against climate change is becoming more soft and flexible, with voluntary commitments to reduce emissions. The question is, who will step up this time to denounce the fraud to the end? Or could it be that this time, everyone will accept the remake of Copenhagen and Cancun?

The truth is that beyond the setting and the last scene, the end of this film will be the same as in Copenhagen and Cancun: humanity and mother earth will be the victims of a rise in temperature not seen in 800,000 years.

Pablo Solon is an international analyst and social activist. He was chief negotiator for climate change and United Nations Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia (2009-June 2011).

Global Exchange spent this past spring in Cochabamba, Bolivia at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights. The conference was called by Bolivian President, Evo Morales in response to the disappointing failure of the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December 2009. The goal was to gather input from people all over the world and shape that input into a plan that can effectively address climate change.

At the conference, Global Exchangers met with heads of state and several social movement representatives in working groups to discuss adaptation, migration, climate debt, action strategies and a host of other issues. The Director of our Rights-Based Organizing Campaign, Shannon Biggs even spoke on the main stage about our Rights of Nature work, like the work she has been doing with the community of Mt. Shasta, California.

In meeting different groups of social movements and speaking with people directly affected by climate change, Global Exchange was able to produce this latest video, Planet and People First, as a report back from Cochabamba. The video features interviews with Conference participants from around the globe including Naomi Klein and Maude Barlow, as they share some of the hope and energy that came out of Bolivia.

Watch the must-see film for you and your community on the vital work of Global Exchange and communities around the world to end addiction to oil and ensure real action is taken globally towards climate equity.

Planet and People First: A Global Exchange report Cochabamba, Bolivia 2010 from Global Exchange on Vimeo.

After watching the film, check out Global Exchange’s Top Ten List of Ways to Save the Climate.

Join Global Exchange, our friends at, and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens around the world who are making October 10th the biggest day of climate action ever! Take part in the Global Work Party, celebrate climate solutions, join an event already happening, get outside and get to work! When the day is done, join Global Exchange supporters and host a Party for the Planet & help us raise $10,000. (Find out how you can donate directly.)

Be a part of the movement! Organize a Party for the Planet film screening fundraiser followed by a discussion.  Hosting a great film screening fundraiser isn’t hard!  Just follow these easy steps:

Get the Video: Fill out an online form to receive Planet and People First— a short (13 minute) film from the first People’s Climate Conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia this spring. It is a must-see film for you and your community on the vital work of Global Exchange and communities around the world to end addiction to oil and ensure real action is taken globally towards climate equity.  Receive a copy of the filmYou must order by October 1st in order to guarantee arrival by October 10th.

Invite Your Friends:  Invite your friends over.  You can prepare light refreshments, or have a potluck and share the workload.  Check out our party planning resource page for downloadable invitations and other helpful tips.

Start the Conversation: Once you and your guests have viewed the film, take a moment to have a discussion around the issues of global climate change and climate equity.  See our list of questions and tips.

10 – 10 – 10 Donations: Our fundraising goal for 10-10-10 is to raise $10,000 dollars.  Ask your guests to give $10, $10(0), $10(0)(0) or more.  If you’re shy about asking for donations, don’t worry – our website offers great tips and resources to make you into a pro.

Please join us in making this important day into a success. Even if you can’t host a house party, consider donating to Global Exchange’s work directly.

We look forward in you joining us in this global movement!

This blog was written by Tanya Kerssen.  She will be traveling with Global Exchange and Food First on the upcoming Food and Farms delegation to Bolivia.

Drastic variations in climate and topography—ranging from tropical jungles and subtropical cloud forests to the vast arid plains of the Altiplano—make Bolivian agriculture a truly remarkable feat. Before the arrival of the Spanish in 1531, the communities of the Incan Empire developed sophisticated skills for producing food in this diverse environment, making the central Andes one of the most important centers of crop domestication in human history. Andean farmers maintained fields at different elevations, taking advantage of a wide range of microclimates. Collectively managed raised beds and terraces sustained over 15 million people with an abundance of grains, roots, legumes, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Despite their ecological resilience and high nutritional value, many native Andean food plants—such as oca, maca, tarwi and kañiwa—have been ignored in Bolivia’s agricultural development, and are virtually unknown outside the region. As hunger now looms over South America’s poorest country, peasant farmers, producer associations, NGOs, and government officials are working to reclaim Bolivia’s food sovereignty.

Following the Spanish conquest, Andean systems of land use and exchange were radically disrupted. Indigenous people were forced to work as miners or workers on Spanish-owned plantations, and native crops were displaced by crops preferred by the conquistadors, such as wheat and barley.Although a social revolution in 1952 put indigenous farmers back in control of their lands and communities, modern agricultural development has not favored native foods and peasant self-sufficiency. The governments that ruled Bolivia from the 1950s onward viewed Andean farming practices and foods as backward. With the help of U.S. Aid and other international funding sources, they launched a massive ‘modernization’ project to kick start industrial agriculture in the sparsely populated Eastern lowlands. Thousands of hectares of rainforest were bulldozed and replanted with sugar, cotton and soybean monocultures.

With little State support, many Andean farmers struggled on small plots of land or migrated to cities. With the decline of native crops, dependence on imported foods increased. In the mid-1950s, the U.S. began shipping its wheat surplus to Bolivia as “food aid”, creating a structural dependence on imported wheat that persists to this day. The cheap American wheat, subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, undercut producers of local criollo wheat varieties and out-competed other peasant-produced crops, such as potatoes and maize. The extreme free market policies applied in Bolivia in the 1980s further deteriorated markets for small farmers, who now had to compete with imported produce from rich farmers in neighboring Peru, Chile and Brazil. Some joined the swelling ranks of the urban poor, while others relocated to the tropics where they could plant coca, the last remaining smallholder crop with a viable market.

Despite hundreds of years of disrepute, many native crops have survived in the subsistence plots of highland farmers. Although they are unknown in commercial markets, they are consumed by farm families, shared in local festivals and treasured for their flavor, beauty or resilience. In several communities of the Yungas region, on the steep Eastern slopes of the Andes, technicians from the NGO Condesan identified nearly 40 varieties of racacha, a tasty yellow root that is botanically related to both carrots and celery. Other peasant-produced foods such as the llama—an Andean camelid uniquely suited to life at 10,000 to 13,000 feet above sealevel—have been part of a broader cultural revitalization. In 1979, a group of Aymara Indian professionals helped found the Camelid Association of the High Andes (AIGACAA), the country’s first organization of llama herders. Over time the association succeeded in overturning discriminatory laws, building the first llama slaughterhouses and improving sanitary standards for llama meat. Naturally low in fat and cholesterol, it has since become widely accepted by middle and upper-class urban consumers as a healthy alternative to beef or pork.  Llama steak or sausage is now available in many Bolivian restaurants and sold in markets as charque or llama jerky.

Quinoa, another Andean native, has also seen a resurgence in popularity. While it continues to be an important subsistence crop for peasants of the Altiplano, often in association with llamas, the “discovery” of its many nutritional benefits has propelled the grain-like plant[i]to international celebrity status. Global demand for quinoa as a ‘health food’ in the North has soared since the 1990s, sparking the emergence of a dynamic, peasant-led export sector. The well-organized producer associations have benefited from the increased demand, and rural out-migration from the Altiplano seems to have abated as a result. Nonetheless, the quinoa sector also demonstrates the limitations of a development strategy reliant on the global market. The market pull to increase production in the short-term through mechanization has eroded fragile highland soils, leading to lower yields in the long-term. The rising price of quinoa has also squeezed out many traditional consumers, who must turn to cheaper, often less nutritious, alternatives. With a government apparently committed to promoting food sovereignty, Bolivia’s development challenge will be to promote food first, and trade second.

From its chacras (fields) to its kitchens, dining halls and street vendors, Bolivia’s place-based food identity is expressed through countless varieties of potatoes and roots, peanuts, squash, corn, beans and hot peppers. Take for instance Bolivia’s signature pastry, the salteña—a plumper, juicier take on the empanada, consumed as a mid-morning snack. Each of Bolivia’s distinct regions, from the high Andes of Potosí to the temperate plains of Cochabamba, has a distinct recipe (often including potatoes, vegetables, raisins, meat and/orhard-boiled eggs) showcasing the local ingredients and culinary pride of its inhabitants. A necessary accompaniment to the salteña, and to most Bolivian meals, is a spicy salsa called llajua (pronounced ya-hua), made from native Andean peppers such as locotos. Indeed, the ancestors of all peppers are believed to have originated in Bolivia, before spreading to Central America and Mexico. The llajua (or llajwa) found in various regions of Bolivia is distinguished by different herbs: wakataya (which has a licorice aroma) is used in the Altiplano while quilquiña (a cilantro-like herb) is used in Cochabamba.

Llajua (Spicy Bolivian Salsa)

2 hot peppers (locoto, habanero or serrano)

1 large tomato (about 8 oz)

1 tablespoon fresh (or 1 tsp dried) herb such as quilquiña, cilantro or parsley

1 small onion, finely chopped

salt to taste

1) Remove seeds from peppers and discard. 2) Squeeze tomato juices and seeds into a small bowl. 3) Grind peppers, herbs and tomato on a mortar or in a food processor. 4) Add reserved tomato pulp to the mixture and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate. Best when used on the same day.[ii]

Bolivian cuisine is a testament to the resilience of Andean farmers, who have fought to preserve the integrity of their agro-food systems for centuries. In January 2009, Bolivia became the fifth country to formally adopt the concept of “food sovereignty” into its national constitution[iii]. Although many challenges remain, this broad-ranging commitment to prioritize sustainable, local food production for local consumption bodes well for the health of the country’s rural and urban communities. Revaluing Bolivia’s neglected native foods for the benefit of local populations is a step in the right direction.

Explore Bolivia’s food and farms with Food First and Global Exchange

October 7 – October 19, 2010

During this 13-day tour, we will travel from the highland birthplace of the potato and quinoa in the Altiplano, to spectacular Lake Titicaca, to the likely center of origin of cocoa in Madidi National Park in the tropical lowlands of Bolivia. We will visit farms, markets, and agro-ecological projects to talk with farmers, consumers, agricultural development experts and food sovereignty activists. By learning first hand and sharing food—succulent salteñas, rich coffee and chocolate, and earthy coca tea—we will reflect upon this region’s remarkable agricultural and culinary heritage.

For more information, click here or contact Corina with any questions.

Further Reading

Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-known plants of the Andes with promise for worldwide cultivation. By the Office of International Affairs, National Research Council. Read online:

My Mother’s Bolivian Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections. By José Sanchez H. Hippocrene Books, 2005.

The South American Table: The flavor and soul of authentic home cooking from Patagonia to Rio de Janeiro. By Maria Baez Kijac. Harvard Common Press, 2003.

[i] Often assumed to be a grain, quinoa actually belongs to the chenopod family, along with beets and spinach. It is grown for its highly nutritious seeds, which are rich in protein, essential amino acids, dietary fiber, and minerals.

[ii] Adapted from The South American table…page 335

[iii] After Mali (2006), Nepal (2007), Venezuela (2008) and Ecuador  (2008).

In 2009, director Oliver Stone traveled to five South American countries to explore the social transformations that have been taking place in those countries. On that trip, Stone had conversations with Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Lula da Silva of Brazil, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, her husband and former president Nėstor Kirchner, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Raúl Castro of Cuba.

In his latest film, South of the Border, Oliver Stone explores those conversations and reveals a revolution in South America that most of the world does not know about.

In casual conversations with seven sitting presidents, Stone gains unprecedented access to and sheds new light upon the exciting transformations in the region.  Mr. Stone was most struck by the extent to which the presidents are committed to determining the future of their own nations without undue outside influence and control.

I saw a screening of this film last week and highly recommend it. It highlights the often skewed representations of these countries by mainstream US media and attempts to shed light on the political and social movements taking place in South America that often go unnoticed amongst the general American public.

A big focus of the film is that of Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez and the changes taking place in the country. Global Exchange has had a strong Reality Tours program in Venezuela for many years and has brought people together to learn more about the progressive model of socioeconomic development that has been shaping Latin America’s future. This is done by meeting with the grassroots that is really helping to shape and build the foundation for these changes. Find out more about our Venezuela delegations.

See the story of Venezuela and Latin America unfold on the big screen. The film is showing in several cities nationwide and is opening in more cities in the coming weeks. To our Bay Area friends, be sure to head to the theatres this weekend for its opening and see the provocative film that everyone is talking about.

South of the Border Channel on YouTube.