Carnaval Morenada

In honor of Carnaval of Oruro, sovaldi which continues as I write this, I present this mp3 of one of the most well-recognized morenada rhythms.

Morenada – Cuanto cuestas, cuanto vales?

Cuanto cuestas, cuanto vales, amor mio?
Si tu quieres yo te pago
pero nunca, nunca me olvides

Como no voy a llorar?
Como no voy a sufrir?
Orureñita de mi alma
Por ti yo ando llorando

The morenada comes from Potosi and is related to the African slaves who were brought to work in the mines. According to this article,

The morenada was the first African dance in Bolivia. Dr. Julia Elena Fortun describes that this dance came out of the Potosi mines during colonial times. The dance represents the reaction of the African slaves to seeing snowfall for the first time…

..the outfits symbolize snow upon metal, while the white wigs represent the snow in their hair.

MAS in Santa Cruz

This is the first in the series of campaign ads for MAS that I’ll post over the next couple of weeks. I was given verbal permission by the executive producer to post them online. This one was shown exclusively in Santa Cruz, where MAS pulled off a surprising 2nd place finish.

Dailymotion blogged video

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Over the past couple of weeks, the relationship between the U.S. and Bolivia has been steadily improving and some common ground had been found. However, a recent event could set the relationship back a bit. The MAS senator and cocalera (coca-growers leader), Leonilda Zurita had her visa revoked, which she found out as she she attempted to travel to Miami to speak at various universities.

Leonilda Zurita, who is seen as one of the leftist president’s closest confidantes, told local media U.S. consular officials had told her she was considered a terrorist, something she dubbed “an offense against Bolivian women”.

According to a statement from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Zurita had been to the U.S. four times previously.

She had planned to travel to the U.S. for a three week speaking tour, accompanied by COHA Senior Research Fellow and longtime Cochabamba resident George Ann Potter. The trip would have included speaking appearances at Stanford University, the University of Vermont, and the University of Florida at Gainesville, among other academic institutions, culminating in a speech at the Kennedy School of Harvard University. This would have made her the first ranking official from the new MAS government to visit the U.S. This, despite the fact that until the previously unannounced cancellation, she had held a valid visa and had flown to the U.S. four previous times, most recently to participate in engagements backed by a number of U.S. grass-root movements, including an appearance at Harvard University.

Terrorism is a word rarely uttered in Bolivia in recent times and using that word could turn the tide in the relationship with the country to the north. The “T” word changes everything. The COHA press release also speculates that the revocation may be related to the “long live coca, death to the yankees” political rhetoric often seen at cocalero rallies.

The opposition party, PODEMOS, is jumping all over this. Oscar Ortiz said,

“The accusation against the Senator should be investigated and verified. Surely she and her party (MAS) need to explain to the Bolivian people,” said Ortiz.

The Congressman also said that “many militants from MAS have roots in violent attitudes, including relationships with terrorist groups. The Vice-President (Garcia Linera) was in jail for terrorism,” said Ortiz.

Note: Garcia Linera was in jail, but never charged, nor found guilty of terrorism.

At one time, the ex-president Jaime Paz Zamora and his confidant Oscar Eid also had their visas revoked due to the presumed and proven relationship with narcotrafficking, respectively.

However, the reasons for her revocation was stated as terrorism and not anything related to narcotrafficking. In addition, unlike Eid, Zurita has not been charged nor found guilty of such offense. If the terrorism label sticks and she is not allowed to travel to the U.S., the thawing of relations between the two countries could be short lived.

Water Wars

Water balloon sightings are the number one sign that Carnaval fast approaches. I’d be lying if I claim that tossing balloons filled with water at innocent bystanders (especially girls) goes back to some ancient Incan ritual meant to purify the soul with water. I tend to think that it ties in neatly with the machismo-fueled culture that Bolivia suffers from.

Every year, recipe the water wars (not the April 2000 episode with Aguas del Tunari) seem to get worse. Even if the police announce that this is the year that they’ll put a stop to things, stomach many people prefer to stay indoors during daylight hours rather than risk being smacked by an errant water balloon. Launching these incoming missiles from half a block away are rarely done so with much accuracy.

In the vicinity of El Prado in Cochabamba, sovaldi women use an accordion-like pump to fill small baseball sized water balloons that sell ten for Bs. 1 (15 US cents). Often those with the urge to participate pull up in their cars, buy 3 or 4 Bolivianos worth and roam the city streets looking for targets. Then, they are back again for their fix, which the women are very happy to oblige

Balloon fights are the tame time of Carnaval, since there still is a sense of morality as to who is off-limits and who is fair game. When the few days around Carnaval in Oruro roll around, times get much rougher. As the blitzkrieg of colorful balloons rains down from opposing sets of stands, the folkloric dance troupes seem to be oblivious to the show in the sky. There is an unwritten rule that any dancer is off limits and even accidentally hitting one with a balloon is met with catcalls from within the stands themselves.

Those poor souls who are on the lookout for a friend among the stands must walk in front of the rows of seats, since there is rarely room behind to walk. These individuals attempt to spot an open seat or a friend to meet up with, but they are often ducks on the pond open for target practice. Many come equipped with plastic ponchos, which must be Carnaval’s number one seller after the 3 x Bs. 10 beer.

I’d be lying if I said I never participated in the water battles. In 2003, I felt as if I graduated from the world of water balloons. In order to break, they need to be thrown with a certain amount of force, which seemed to me to be a little excessive. Water guns allows for greater marksmanship, without the bruising effects of a carefully thrown water balloon. So before my bus ride to Oruro, I went down to La Cancha to purchase a super soaker. All along the streets, stalls resembled small artilleries. The price varied as the quality of water gun ascended. From itty-bitty peas shooters to double-barreled bazookas complete with matching storage backpack, all were available. I settled for a pump-action water rifle, which must have held 2 liters of water.

Sitting among the crowd, the long range capability allowed me to remain hidden among the crowd. I did take it easy on those unequipped to deal with a super soaking. These games aren’t much fun when you have to spend the frosty evenings of Oruro in wet and sloppy clothes. The only problem with the water gun is that it often ran out of water. Instead of having to return upstairs to my aunt’s house, I managed to buy some water from the melting ice from a nearby vendor.

Walking around the city with the water gun in hand did make me feel a little too old to be doing so, but it also gave no mistake that I was in the game. Sometimes I would run across bands of little kids who were fearless and were armed with something much fiercer –foam. I don’t know how foam became introduced to Carnaval, but it’s not uncommon to see someone wet from water and covered from head to toe in foam.

Sound Mobile

Traveling in caravan was common during the campaign. In order to grab the attention of the populace and draw them out of their homes, rx this mini-van equipped with booming speakers usually did the trick. The amount of raw power rigged from the generator was so loud that one could hear the words of the songs and the speakers from two blocks away.

Inside the Campaign

I recently discovered this new tool to display videos called Daily Motion, ask so I am digging out some of the videos that I took on the road with the MAS campaign. Many of them will end up being the actual campaign ads that were shown on television. I received verbal permission to post them on the net.

This video was taken on the way to a campaign stop in a small community on the outskirts of Cochabamba. My friend Miguel was practicing his Quechua on the microphone which was dispersed via a giant speaker on the roof of the car, generic he admitted he was a bit rusty, as Spanish was the language he used nearly all of the time. I think he has aspirations to run for office someday. This was days before the close of campaign and he is inviting everyone to come to the Felix Capriles Stadium at 2 pm to see Evo Morales and the rest of the Departmental candidates.

Dailymotion blogged video

Cuckoo for Coca Puffs

Bolivia minister wants coca fed to school children

Bolivia’s foreign minister says coca leaves, the raw material for cocaine, are so nutritious they should be included on school breakfast menus.

“Coca has more calcium than milk. It should be part of the school breakfast,” Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca was quoted as saying in Friday’s edition of La Razon.

According to a 1975 Harvard study, 100 g of coca leaves counts on nearly 19 calories in protein, 45.8 mg in iron, 1540 mg of calcium and other essential vitamins. So I think we may see this soon on the shelves of your favorite supermercado.

I really have too much time on my hands..

New Investment from Petrobras

Bolivia will forfeit all future investment, prostate critics predicted. Bolivia’s too unstable and the new radical government will chase away any type of economic activity. Mexican President Vicente Fox said that Bolivia will just eat its own gas, if it chooses not to export under very liberal terms.

Well, Bolivia’s largest investor to date, Petrobras announced that it will not only continue its operations, but it will expand and invest to the tune of 5 billion dollars over the next five to six years.

The Minister of Hydrocarbons, Andres Solís Rada said that, “These negotiations are unlike those of the past, I am talking about those of the last decade, because there wasn’t a interlocutor from Bolivia that truly represented national interests,”

Who Owns Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano?

A commenter wondered who owns the Bolivian airline LAB.

According to Wikipedia:

In 1994, prescription Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano descended into a deep economic crisis and the government searched for potential buyers. Under those circumstances, generic on October 19, ed 1995, the Brasilian company VASP acquired 50% of the company. VASP changed the colors of the planes in accordance to their colors and introduced a frequent flyer program.

The other 50% theoretically belong to the Bolivian people.

From the LAB website:

In December 2001, a group of Bolivians headed by Ing. Ernesto R. Asbún, acquire the shares from VASP and LAB returns to the ownernship of Bolivian nationals..

The company VASP was embroiled in a massive fraud and mismanagement, resulting in the sale of the shares to Sr. Asbún, who now is heavily in debt. According to this article, LAB owes 16 million dollars to health insurance and 8 million dollars to the pension fund. In addition, he owes back pay to hundreds of workers. Some of the striking pilots asked for shares be transferred to workers to cover some of the debt owed. This mess is not what the politicians had in mind when the grand capitalization process was launched.

Update 11:00 PM EST: Via a Presidential decree, the Bolivian government announced a preventative intervention of the airline for 90 days, thus guaranteeing the operation of the national airline.