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El Charango


(Director - Jim Virga, Editor - Tula Goenka, Sound - Andrew Reissiger)


The short Spanish language documentary El CHARANGO explores the relationship between the Bolivian stringed instrument, known as the charango, and Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain) in Potosi, Bolivia.


Once the largest silver deposit in the world, Cerro Rico was discovered in 1545 by Spanish conquistadors.  The city of Potosi, which sits at the base of the mountain, thus quickly became the most populated city in the Americas.  Over the years, it is said that 8 million people died working the silver mines.  Spanish culture spread into Potosi during this time, and the local people became aware of something they had never seen or heard before: a stringed instrument. Forbidden from ever playing the Spanish vihuela de mano, the miners copied it and created the charango.  Even today, nearly 150 years after the end of Spanish rule, the charango continues to be a companion to many in Potosi, miners or not.


Although the documentary primarily focuses on the charango it is not a historical piece. The story of the charango symbolizes the larger struggle for human rights and a quest to keep traditional culture alive among indigenous people, and the people of Potosi in particular. It is a story of the fight for survival of the human spirit on this earth and the struggle of indigenous people for their rightful place in modern day society. El Charango introduces viewers to several charango players including the most renowned charango player in the world today, Ernesto Cavour Ayamaro. The film also journeys into the bowels of the mines of Cerro Rico as we observe what lies beneath.


Screened at the Silverdocs AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Film Festival, at the Tri-Continental Film Festival, at the Mexico City International Documentary Film Festival, and at the Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival.

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