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Interamerican Development Bank president Felipe Herrara, a Chilean economist, told of a tiny Indian village on the high altiplano near Bolivia’s Lake  Titicaca, where he’d gone on a feasibility study for a proposed hydroelectric dam. Upon completing the site visit, his team realized they hadn’t used their entire travel budget. Since the village lacked everything, they assembled the local chiefs and explained that they had some money left. In gratitude for hospitality and assistance, they’d like to give it to the community as a gift.

“What project would you like us to fund here in the name of the Bank?”

The Indian elders excused themselves and went off to discuss this offer. In just five minutes they returned. “We know what we want to do with the money.”

“Excellent. Whatever you want.”

“We need new musical instruments for our band.”

“Maybe,” replied the Bank team spokesman, “you didn’t understand. What you need are improvements like electricity. Running water. Sewers. Telephone and telegraph.”

But the Indians had understood perfectly.

“In our village,” the eldest explained, “Everyone plays a musical instrument. On Sundays after mass, we all gather for la retreta, a concert on the church patio. First we make music together. After that, we can talk about problems in our community and how to resolve them. But our instruments are old and falling apart. Without music, so will we.”

–From Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World


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