Hillard Kaplan, Chapman University - Helping Indigenous of Bolivia Guard Against Pandemic

Hillard Kaplan, Chapman University
Helping Indigenous of Bolivia Guard Against Pandemic


Good news and bad news in the pandemic age.

Good news: Native Bolivian music is so highly valued that the Experimental Orchestra of Bolivian Native Instruments was invited to Germany to perform at a festival.

Bad news:  They arrived on March 10, just as Germany was locking down to suppress the spread of Covid-19.

Worse news: By the time they found a flight back home, Bolivia was also in lockdown and they were stuck.

Good news: The 20 young musicians of the Orchestra have been sequestered at Rheinsberg, in Frederick the Great’s favorite castle.

Better news: after more than 80 days in effective – if regal – quarantine, the musicians have been cleared to come home.

But here’s the worst news: the Experimental Orchestra of Native Instruments will be leaving a Germany that is opening up after having largely contained the virus, and going back to a Bolivia that is also relaxing its restraints on social and business activity even though the coronavirus is not contained, and is growing at one of the fastest rates in the world.

Since the first Covid-19 case was identified in Bolivia, on March 10, the day after the orchestra headed to Europe, the outbreak began slowly, taking 10 weeks to reach 5,000 cases.  But it’s exploded in the two and a half weeks since – more than doubling to about 12,000 cases and more than 400 deaths.

But of special concern to our guest today, evolutionary anthropologist Hillard Kaplan of Chapman University, is where more than 80 percent of this sky-rocketing caseload is coming from – Beni and Santa Cruz regions in eastern Bolivia.  Beni is where 18 years ago, Hillard Kaplan started what would become the Tsimane Health Project and Beni is where Kaplan returned earlier this year to help the 16,000 or so Tsimane people protect themselves against the novel coronavirus.



Professor Hillard Kaplan is a man of many parts.  At Chapman University in Orange, California he teaches at the Economic Science Institute, the School of Pharmacy and The George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics.

Kaplan is a recognized scholar in the field of evolutionary anthropology, the discipline that drew him to the Tsimane and Bolivia.  Here is how he describes his work: “My research examines the evolution of the human life course. This work has at various times focused on food sharing, fertility decisions, parental investment, sex roles, subsistence behavior, intelligence, and life span.

“My empirical work draws on fieldwork with a number of populations including the Ache (Paraguay), Mashco-Piro (Peru), Yora/Yaminahua (Peru), Machiguenga (Peru), and Xhosa (South Africa). My past work on fertility and parental investment has also drawn on a data collected from men living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I currently direct the Tsimane Health and Life History Project with Michael Gurven (UC Santa Barbara).”



















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