Bolivian nationalism is being whipped up ahead of the national ‘Day for the Sea’ this Thursday, led by the hashtags #ElMarNosUne & #MarParaBolivia and slogans such as ‘Bolivia Nacio Con El Mar’ (Bolivia was born with the sea) and ‘Los Bolivianos Tenemos Derecho Al Mar’ (Bolivians have a right to the sea). They want back the coastline they lost in 1879-83 to Chile in the War of the Pacific, and the reasons are many. But will they get it?
Back in 1879, 54years after Bolivia achieved Independence on 6 August 1825 from the Spanish Empire, the Chilean army & navy launched a landgrab to the north, taking Bolivia’s sole stretch of coastline and a chunk of southern Peru as well. Victory was easy for the much better prepared & armed Chileans (supported by the British Empire!), while the performance of the Bolivian army & navy was typically useless and led by military idots and self-interested politicians….although some later became ‘national heroes’!?Continue reading →
Well that was different. The ‘Festival de ¿Anormales?’ or ‘Festival de la cine #Trans’, according to the banner outside the building, in #Sucre Bolivia, held a social night last Saturday, and we wandered along.
We had no idea what to expect…and even then it was nothing like what we expected!
A quick internet search before we arrived in Sucre, Bolivia’s ‘constitutional capital’ (in name only), had turned up something a little different, an event around LGBT sexuality & rights (FB event page), the first such event we’d really heard of in our travels. So a few hours after arriving in town, we found our way along to the venue, perhaps 15 minutes walk from Sucre’s main plaza – itself perhaps one of the clearest examples of Spanish colonial style, catholic dominated, plazas in Bolivia. So to find a LGBT event nearby was a surprise.Continue reading →
Well not actually our garden of course, but in our ‘casa colonial hostel’ (colonial era house hostel) near the centre of #Cochabamba there was a chapel tucked away in the otherwise luscious green garden! During our stay we did not see anyone using it, but it was clearly well maintained, even if it must have originally been built many centuries before. From over the garden wall we could also hear regular bouts of singing etc from the church virtually next door.
Perhaps given the history of south America we shouldn’t have been so surprised. We’vecommented beforeabout the extensive & ongoing domination of catholicism in Peru going back nearly 500 years, and the reasons for this. In Bolivia it is much the same (Bolivia was once called Alto Peru, or Upper Peru, by the Spanish) – colonial era churches, monasteries & schools continue to dominate the former colonial centres of cities & towns. Whilst as often as not very large crosses or figures of (the white) Christ are prominent on the hills overlooking urban centres.
Cochabamba’s own ‘White Christ’ looks down from on high
‘we are praying for you’ – evangelists in Cochambamba’s centre
It is not just the old-school catholics that are present either. We have been surprised to note just how many evangelical style new churches we’ve come across in Bolivia. They may not utilise the levels of oppression used by the colonial catholics, instead they often offer varying levels of social support such as food kitchens (echos of the new poverty back in the UK), but their aim remains the same – to civilise and ‘to save’ the the local population.
Back in Cusco, Peru, we’d become aware of how many evangelical missionaries were still coming into Peru & Bolivia to save souls etc, having had the misfortune, and shock, to overhear some of their planning sessions in one location. It is clear that whilst old-style colonialism may have ended, it has been replaced by equally insidious forms that go hand in hand with the continued economic exploitation of the region & attempts to ‘control’ it. The local people still have some way to go to truly free themselves from over 500 years of misery & subjugation.
Blimey what´s this in #Cochabamba…a new dance craze for Bolivia & south America perhaps? Well NO actually, just some bizarrely named cafes and restaurantes! We have no ideawhy these places have the namesthey have, or if their owners are at all conscious of the implications? Clearly the authorities have no concerns, but one can´t imagine seeing these in the UK. Being veggies we´ve not been in either to check them out, as one thing that´s for sure is that the menus are for meat eaters. Indeed in the towns & cities of Bolivia that we’ve seen, the consumption of chickens in particular, by the millions, reigns supreme. Be they roasted, grilled or however else you cook them, the pavements and cafes/restaurants are full of them.
However we cannot complain – Cochabamba has a decent range of veggie/vegan places! Guided by the Happy Cow website, and our own wanderings, we found a decent selection in the slightly alternative (bohemian?) area around calle Espana & Ecuador near the centre. Special mentions for Tulasi 2, on calle Junin corner with Colombia (4 course lunch menu for 20BOB or under 3 quid), and the best we found was MENTA on calle Espana (3 course lunch menu for 21BOB plus a selection of fine other dishes day & night for 20-35 BOB…even some decent humus with falafel). Yum Yum, no need to go hungry here!
Meanwhile here´s those strange names in all their full venue gory glory…YUK! Continue reading →
Time in #Cochabamba Bolivia is flying by, a shame as this is a fine place to visit! Once again in our wanderings around we have come across some fine street art murals, exhibiting real artistic skill, often with some social … Continue reading →
Once again in #Bolivia we´re coming across some excellent street art here in #Cochambamba (murals to follow!), but we´ve noticed here more interventions of a feminist nature. For sure many murals feature indigenous women & culture, but here we´ve seen some more direct artwork on womens´ issues, as well as a focus on a key Bolivian feminist activist & local woman Adela Zumiado ´Soledad´ who died back in 1928. We´ve also seen, probably for the first time – in socially conservative, catholic dominated, patriarchical Peru & Bolivia – some women breastfeeding in public places. There´s the sense here that women have gained a greater degree of equality, and not just in the equality laws passed by Govt. Good to see, but still a long way to go….(images below)… Continue reading →
What a strange day! Awaking in the morning in #Cochabamba Bolivia, to the sound of almost silence? No roar of traffic nor murmur of voices. What is going on? Out on the streets, in the city’s central district, it is eerily quiet. A quick hunt for coffee & wifi access, and a scan of a morning paper, reveals that…today, Thursday 16 March, is a 1-day #ParoCivico or Civic Strike. Organised by the Civic Committee of Cochabamba & supported by the local mayor, it´s specifically against a complicated legal section of a certain law, but more generally against narco-trafficking, and also the sense that the ‘Cocaleros’ (coca growers) receive preferential treatment (ie in relation to taxes).
This is a complicated issue! But we find the city, and probably the whole region, has been shut down by civic action since the very early hours, primarily by the simple tactic of blockading the roads – the key bridges into the city, the key intersections – and therefore ensuring there is no transportation. The blockades are a mix of ‘public transport’ vehicles (busses, taxis/trufis), bins & rubbish, and of course people in the middle of the road. Simple, and very effective. The streets are eerily quiet here in the city centre, and for as far as we are able to walk. Others are walking too, or moving by bike & motorcycle, and a few vehicles circulate within the blockaded areas. (See local media reports here and here in Spanish). Continue reading →