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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

To Ivan of Teatro Trono

Abby, Lyla, Jesse and I headed to Teatro Trono a few weeks ago. We took the teleferrico up to El Alto watching fireworks reign in the closing performance of the setting sky. As we walked on the street with Teatro, Ivan´s warm smile contrasted the dark night welcoming us to the entrance of the building. From a simple look at the outside you could infer that this is a place of immense art and creativity but from actually being inside these inferences quickly become a strong feeling that you knew to be true.

Ivan took us on a tour of the 50 years of architectural art, collection of trinkets and undoubtedly experiences that this theater he calls home had to offer.

It was simply mesmerizing – there was something to be seen in every crook and cranny of this building. It contained recycled materials from old houses all over El Alto and collected crafts from his many visits around the world. I felt it was a physical manifestation of walking through the creative, expressive, intelligent and diverse brains of Anna and Ivan.

In the heart of the theater, he told us of the work that Teatro Trono does. Simply put, Teatro Trono is a social organization that puts on theater movements giving street children and youth overall an avenue to express themselves. It is an important place and organization for many of the youth in El Alto. It offers a space to comment on local themes and occurrences.

Over tea, he told us he had been living in this house for over 50 years collecting trinkets from across the world with his wife Anna. He went on to explain how uncommon theater was and still is in Bolivia as Bolivians mainly tell stories through weaving. Yet still, Teatro Trono has managed to use this platform to reach children who needed an outlet and become so good at it that they have been invited across the world to perform.

He carried us to the top of the house where he has a  lookout with a panoramic view of El Alto. We all excitedly walked around basking in the view and conversations of the innate diversity that each person in the world has. We then had tea around his dining table as Anna walked in greeting us each with a kiss. Ivan asked us more about where we´re from and what we´ve done so far in the program. After telling him I was from Jamaica he showed me the huge Bob Marley poster plastered across his ceiling. I don´t think I´ve ever seen so many Bob Marley pictures in one. He seemed so thrilled to have a Jamaican on the Dragons program. Here I was miles from home, feeling at home with Ivan and Anna in Teatro Trono. He has played a big role in the lives of many jovenes in El Alto and now he has played a small role in mine, reminding me to be proud of where I come from and stand tall in it.

As I wrote this I was looking out at the lake in the Cordillera Real mountains of our third campsite in the Andes. Seeing the fog continuously cover and uncover the lake, I am reminded that not everything is here forever. Maybe the same way this lake is uncovered for a few seconds is the same way we have life for a few years and are then reclaimed by God and nature. It´s important to use the time that you have here well and be proud of your background and accomplishment in all things. I walked up to the lake the next morning and as I held my Jamaican flag up to take a picture with it, I knew Ivan would be proud. Thank you, Ivan.