No Game Today

I had plans to take off work to go down to Cecilia’s and watch the Bolivia – Venezuela game. In a perfect world, Bolivia would have defeated Argentina last Saturday and preparing themselves to capture all 6 points. However, the loss two days ago has put everyone in a foul mood. The news reports in Bolivia are gloating that only 2 tickets were sold in the last two days for today’s match. It will be lucky if more than 5,000 fans show up in cavernous Hernando Siles stadium (capacity over 30,000). Even if Bolivia wins today, it is a little too late. This will be the first game I would have missed on TV or in person since the qualifying round started in 2003.

I feel bad, but almost embarrassed to see no one show up to the stadium to watch them play.

Update: From ESPN Deportes “Relato en Vivo”
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Defeatist Attitude

When Jose Alfredo Castillo found the back of the net during Saturday’s match against Argentina and put Bolivia up 1-0, viagra sale there was a bit of uneasiness that the joy wouldn’t last too long. Almost as expected, medical the Argentines scored two unanswered and ended up winning in La Paz 2-1.

This is the story of the Bolivian soccer team. If something seems too good to be true, then brace yourself for some disappointment. After “Picaro” Castillo scored in his return to the National Team, the thirty or so minutes left in the game would seem like an eternity, and it was just a matter of time before the hammer fell.

There was almost an expectation that we would lose. So many of my Bolivian friends here in Virginia refuse to watch any game anymore, “Why?” they ask, “we’re going to lose anyway.” It is almost a pervasive attitude that not only applies to sport, but to daily life. The fatalist defeatist attitude is very strong throughout Bolivia from my observation.

There seems to be a philosophy of thinking first of the limitations, rather than the possibilities. Growing up most of my life in the United States, that practice seems so foreign to me. The U.S. wants to be #1 in everything, yet Bolivia is #1 in nothing.

Maybe it goes back to the days of colonization where the indigenous peoples felt helpless to the fate laid upon them by the Spanish. It was probably easier with less disappointment to accept things the way they were. With the large part of the country either indigenous or mestizo, part of that thinking is evident in daily life. Experiences with the lack of opportunities, corrupt bureaucracy and a perpetual state of conflict also may add to this attitude.

To say it is a bit depressing is an understatement.

Bolivia needs some good news every once in awhile.

Bolivia – Argentina

Bolivia attempts to capitalize on Argentina’s terror of the altitude of La Paz in today’s World Cup qualifier. In every interview of Argentine players, they always say they don’t want to talk about the altitude, but they do so anyway by saying that they don’t want to talking about it. A group of reporters from Argentina played up this fact when they met the Argentine team when they arrived in Bolivia, the reporters were waiting in the airport with an oxygen task and mask.

Game time is for 4 p.m. Bolivian time in La Paz.

Bolivia – Remittances

According to the Inter-American Development Bank, the total amount of remittances increased in 2004 for practically every country in Latin America. Remittances from the United States and Europe help fuel Bolivia’s economy from the money sent back from family members working abroad.

Remittances to Bolivia

2003 – $340 million dollars
2004 – $422 million dollars

This pales into comparison with Mexicans who sent approximately $16.6 billion dollars back to their home country

Fr. Luis Espinal

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the murder of Father Luis Espinal, see S.J. in La Paz. Coincidentally, Fr. Espinal was killed only three days before another high-profile murder of an outspoken priest that criticized an oppressive government, Archibishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador.

Born in Spain, Fr. Espinal came to Bolivia in 1968 and immediately took on the role of an outspoken critic of the military dictatorship and defender of the poor. Three years after arriving to Bolivia, Espinal became a naturalized Bolivian and became actively involved in hosting a radio program at Radio Fides and publishing a newspaper called Aqui.

A well-known film enthusiast and critic, Espinal hosted a radio program with his friend Eduardo Perez (better known as Padre Perez, who still hosts a TV program and radio program in Bolivia). When Espinal, who never missed a Saturday morning radio show, did not show up on March 22, something seemed fundamentally wrong. It was soon discovered that he had not returned to his room the night before.

La Razon describes his final days:

On the night of March 21, 1980, the film enthusiast Espinal was returning to his house after watching a movie in the 6 de Agosto theater. At the end of the street Diaz Romero in Miraflores, near where he shared a house with fellow Jesuits, a young man witnessed a man being forced into a jeep and, then he heard a cry for help. Luis Arce Gomez and Guido Benavidez, as was discovered later, were the responsible for the kidnapping and murder.

The priest was taken to the Achachicala slaughterhouse where he was tortured for four hours, before receiving 17 bullets. In the early dawn hours, a campesino found his body in some trash near the road to Chacaltaya, where the neighborhood Plan Autopista now is located.

The burial was attended by approximately 80,000 weeping persons. In his tomb in the General Cemetery, where fresh flowers are always placed, it reads “Killed for helping the people.”

Fr. Espinal is remembered all across Bolivia, and especially in La Paz where a pilgrimage is annually held to the spot where his body was found. The Spanish-Bolivian priest never thought his life was in danger and did very little in terms of precautions. He once wrote in his newspaper:

“No queremos mártires”. “El país no necesita mártires, sino constructores (…)”.

“We don’t want martyrs…the country does not need martyrs, instead it needs builders…”

A Couple of Recent Articles

Houston Chronicle:

At present, analyst Alvaro Garcia said, groups representing the poor indigenous majority have begun directly challenging the political elite.

“A new excluded group is demanding a seat at the table,” he said, “and there isn’t much room.”

Didn’t MAS get the 2nd largest number of seats at the table? This monumental accomplishment seems to be not enough for Evo. Any democratic legitimacy he gained in 2002 is getting thrown out the window.

San Francisco Chronicle:

“In the coming weeks or months there will be a confrontation,” said Alvaro Garcia, a political analyst in La Paz. “The political center has been emptied, and the country is sharply divided between left and right. For the moment, everything seems to be on hold, but in the future this polarization could be very dangerous.”

Unfortunately this is true, in that these types of crises like to draw nice and neat divisions. Remember the Santa Cruz issue? The elites reveled in pointing out that any opposition to their tactics meant a vote for centralism and the status quo. Now, those who speak out against the blockades are being lumped into the “right-wingers” and arm-in-arm with the political parties.

Also, something that should be condemned is the racist commments and attitudes that are being used by those dismissing the blockaders, most of whom happen to be a largely of an indigenous background. This current state of conflict is pitting Indios vs. the mestizo.

Creighton in the Big Dance

In about an hour (9:40 EST), my alma mater, Creighton University will be making its 6th appearance in the last 7 NCAA basketball tournaments. They meet up with the Mountaineers of West Virginia.

Considering CU is a small private Jesuit school in the middle of the U.S. without much name recognition, that acheivement is a pretty big deal. I’ve been a huge Creighton basketball fan all the way back to my freshmen year when the students were apathetic. I’ve managed to follow them in four different countries. It always seemed that I was abroad when CU played in the “Big Dance” and so I’m looking forward to watching them on TV in the U.S. for once.

In 2000, I was in El Salvador and begged someone to let me log in to the internet to see how the game finished. A year later, I was in Bolivia and silently listened to the game live in an internet cafe above the Cochabamba correo. In 2003, I was in Buenos Aires and walked through the deserted streets of the Argentine capital looking for an all night internet cafe. No one is expecting the Bluejays to win the National Championship, although it’s nice to have a nostalgic connection on such a national stage.

Update: Creighton lost on a West Virginia dunk in the final seconds. WVU 63, CU 61