Bolivian Halloween

¡Trato o truco!” That is what some kiddies say in La Paz when trick or treating. La Razon published a story today about the growth of this unofficial holiday in Bolivia.

A 10-year old kid interviewed for the story said:

“There are some people that get mad when we ring their doorbell, but we tell them that it’s Halloween and we should have fun.”

Halloween certainly hasn’t caught on in all parts of the city or throughout the country. On the most part, this night is most celebrated throughout middle class neighborhoods and in the discos and locales.

Some in Bolivia may voice displeasure to see such a generic holiday like Halloween invading their country. After all, many Latin American countries have a much more interesting and meaningful holiday, in All Souls and All Saints Day. I tend to agree, but I wouldn’t go as far as Hugo Chavez calling it a “game of terror.”

Tough Crowd

My hometown football teams were trounced yesterday. If these were the late 1980s, story I would be greatly depressed over the defeat of the Washington Redskins, who lost 36-0 to the NY Giants. John Riggins, Art Monk and Darrell Green no longer play for this American football team and my interest in that sport has diminished to practically zero.

The Cochabamba team Wilstermann also lost to Oruro’s San Jose placing in jeopardy their chances to move onto the next round in the tournament. It’s been a year since I’ve seen them play in the Felix Capriles stadium and I don’t recognize half of the names on the roster. I miss those days when my cousin and I wouldn’t miss a Sunday afternoon game and the chance to chomp on piping hot cheese empanadas.

Finally, my last team, DC United, which plays in Major League Soccer will not have the opportunity to defend its championship. At the hands of the Chicago Fire, DCU was embarrassed at home 4-0 in front of a crowd of nearly 20,000. It’s far better to lose convincingly than to lose in the remaining seconds or as a result of a fluke call. Bolivian flags could be seen throughout the stadium in honor of #99 Jaime Moreno, who is a finalist for league Most Valuable Player. Fans around me were frustrated and some booed the team as they entered their lockerroom at halftime, many just left before the game completed. That was the extent of the visible displeasure.

In Madrid, I saw a game between the local Atletico Madrid vs. Atletico Bilbao. The homeside played rather horribly and after the visitors took a one goal lead, the fans became increasingly impatient. When Bilbao scored its second goal, one fan in the next section cheered, as if he were turning on his own team for their poor play. At that, with about 30 minutes to go in the game, he grabbed his son and exited the stadium in disgust.

By far, Cochabamba fans are the most demanding that I’ve seen with their own team. Some say Wilstermann plays better on the road, than in front their own fans. Why? Because it seems that the local fans expect a goleada every match. Whistles, the South American version of booing, are heard at any hint of missed goal opportunities, even if Wilstermann was leading. I have also seen fans throw items, with an aim on the players, onto the pitch, such as full 2-liter bottles of Pepsi, water balloons, oranges, and bottle rockets. This is when they are losing at a crucial time in the season. At times, the police in full riot gear needed to protect players (even the local team) with their riot shields when taking corner kicks. With fans like that, who needs enemies?

The Reaction

The Electoral Court says that there is not enough time to prepare the necessary materials for a December 4th election. Two other Sundays in December are still available and still remain as acceptable dates, drug although postponing the election an additional 7-14 days could negatively affect the frontrunner. In this case, remedy the favorite is Evo Morales, decease as most polls have placed Morales in first place ahead of the other two major candidates Tuto Quiroga and Samuel Doria Medina.

However, the entire country will wait and see how Evo reacts to the news of this near-certain postponement. He is already spouting off about neoliberal-this and oligarchy-that. If Congress does not decide soon or President Eduardo Rodriguez does not issue his decree, Evo and the self-described “destabilizing forces” in his campaign could take to the streets, causing serious inconveniences for the general public.

Surely that would have a negative effect on those middle class and urban voters, who have conveniently forgotten about his propensity to alternate between democracy and street mobilizations. The fact of the matter is that there are many middle class and urban voters who are strongly leaning towards supporting MAS. Bolivians have a short memory (after all, they allowed a former dictator to run for President and win – Hugo Banzer in 1997), but protests weeks before an election will surely chip away at Evo’s lead in the polls. Maybe that’s what some of the Congressmen are hoping for.

Bolivia in "La Cebolla"

My brother sent me this article from The Onion newspaper.

Bolivia Joins DOPEC

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA—The South American nation of Bolivia was inducted into the Development Organization of Powder-Exporting Countries Monday. “As the world’s third-largest producer of coca, we are pleased to join Colombia, Peru, Mexico, and other proud nations in economic partnership,” said Sonia Atala, Bolivia’s minister of opiates. “Only by working together can we assure ourselves of continued expansion into foreign markets.” The move was opposed by the U.S., DOPEC’s largest customer, on the grounds that further price increases and supply restriction would create long lines at dealerships.

Jumping to Conclusions

MAS’ new website is designed well and easy to navigate. Turns out the site was designed by Komunicate, a company located in Medellin, Colombia. Miguel from MABB wonders why the site was designed in that relatively distant South American country, “Aren’t there companies able to design and host websites in Bolivia?” A.M. Mora y Leon from Publius Pundit insinuates that there must be some dark relationship between Evo Morales and this company in Colombia,a country which has the “mala fama” of being heavily associated with narcotrafficking.

So why was it designed in Colombia, of all places? Well, not claiming to be a journalist, I decided to employ some journalistic practices. I simply wrote to the company Komunicate to ask them how they ended up collaborating with MAS from so far away.

Mr. Natalio Pinto Alvarado, the site’s webmaster, kindly responded to my inquiry via email. His similar responses are also up at the two aforementioned websites.

It turns out Mr. Pinto is Peruvian by birth, but studied at the Universidad Catolica Boliviana in La Paz for five years. After that, he worked as an operations assistant at various Bolivian television channels. During that time, he met his wife, who is from Colombia. Subsequently they decided to return to her home country to begin a life together. He writes:

“One additional point, I haven’t received a single peso for the work I have done with MAS, I did it to contribute my small piece for change in Bolivia. Yes, I am Peruvian, but I feel just like a Bolivian. The four years I spent in Bolivia made me care for that country, I am proud of its culture, its people and its history. Like many other Bolivians, I am tired of the continuation of poverty, hunger, inequality and discrimination that is deteriorating the country..”

Other Bolivian websites that the company has worked on include the Instituto de Desarrollo BIBOSI (Santa Cruz, Bo), Interacción y Desarrollo (La Paz, Bo), Vejez Digna (La Paz, Bo). None of the three are believed to have ties with narcotrafficking.

To see the new MAS website, click here.

Destabilizing Forces

Alvaro Garcia Linera, Vice-Presidential candidate for MAS said in a recent debate:

“The five largest movements that can mobilize in a destabilizing way are now with MAS,”

And this is a good thing?

Well, Garcia Linera seems to hint that a MAS presidency will halt (temporarily) the threat of blockades and marches, which Bolivians have grown weary of. But, Maria Rene Duchen, PODEMOS VP candidate wonders whether Garica Linera’s statement is thinly veiled as a “threat”. She countered that PODEMOS will not allow for destabilizing forces to even exist within the country.

A Look Back: Plaza Murillo

October 2000: This is the first in a series of photo + descriptions of photos taken during my time in South America between 2000-2003.

Overnight buses from Cochabamba always dump you at the La Paz bus station no later than 6:30 a.m. The urge to linger as long as possible catching as much sleep as possible, order usually is interrupted by an employee announcing that it was time to disembark. At that time of morning, sale if the drowsiness doesn’t overwhelm you, for sale the cold surely will. The four of us had arrived in La Paz as part of our anthropology coursework and a visit to an Afro-Bolivian community in the Yungas. It was much too early to give the university professor a ring, as he was supposed to make the arrangements with the homestay family. To pass the time, we took a trufi-taxi to the Plaza Murillo, where this shot was taken.

Huddling on a couple of benches, the morning fog still enveloped many of the government buildings. As it began to lift, the scene around us would slowly develop. Schoolchildren scurried off to class, as a couple of soldiers solemnly raised the Bolivian flag. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a keenly familiar face. At the time, I knew I recognized him as someone of notoriety, but couldn’t place my finger on his name. He was an obvious tourist, but appeared to be on some sort of mission. It wasn’t until I saw a PBS documentary about Michael Palin (ex-Monty Python) and his travels around the world that I was reminded about the mystery man. I perhaps would have spoken with him, if I remembered him at the time, but it’s not polite to ask someone “who are you?

A Tragic Lesson for Bolivia

There’s a new Comment and Analysis Piece posted at the Financial Times website entitled “Bolivia provides a tragic lesson for Latin America.” The piece was written by Lord Norman Lamont, British chancellor of the exchequer, who recently visited Bolivia. The whole time reading, I tried figuring out what the tragic lesson was (bold print-my emphasis).

The rising figure is the charismatic Evo Morales, who supports free cultivation of the cocoa leaf, the raw material for the production of cocaine, and the nationalisation of hydrocarbons.

Apparently the tragic lesson is: Don’t let your kids drink Nestle’s Quik.

Finally Bolivia Wins One!

They took away all of the silver from Potosi. They can keep our access to the sea. We’ll even let them have all of our gas reserves. But I wont stand for them taking our monkey fossils.

Eight rare fossils of an extinct monkey considered the oldest ever found in South America, have been returned to Bolivia by Japan.

The fossils, borrowed by a Japanese researcher 10 years ago, have been in storage at Kyoto University.

The monkey was a small tree-borne primate, Branisella Boliviana, which lived in South America roughly 26.5 million years ago, and grew to just 14 centimetres.

Finally, there’s justice in this world.