Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bolivia...a love affair...and a promise.

My love affair with Bolivia started a long time ago. Fascination began in high school. It turned to love in college. When we retired from paid work, Mr. B.E & I chose Bolivia for Our Big Retirement Trip. It was my dream-come-true: two months exploring the back roads of the nation.

I began blogging in Bolivia. I didn’t have a digital camera yet. It seems like ages ago, and it seems like just last year—although it was neither: it was 2006. I watched Evo Morales’ inauguration on television, silently cheering the first-ever Bolivian indigenous president. After the ceremony, I watched as he politely refused to return the top military generals’ salutes, offering instead his handshake.

The trip was worth waiting all my life for. I learned lessons I still draw from. The people of Bolivia hugged us close and only released us with tears of mutual love. Bolivia was pivotal in helping us choose the retirement lifestyle we now live.

This week, Bolivia went up in flames—with the dark hand of our government fueling those fires. Newsweek magazine titled it: Bolivia—Revolt of the Rich.

The back roads we traveled are blockaded. The market we shopped is on fire. The people we lived with go without. The Peace Corp is permanently withdrawn (a typical U.S. punishment). At least 30 campesinos are massacred, many with bullet holes in their backs.

A friend in southern Bolivia sent this report from Tarija last week. I like first-hand reports:

Yesterday was rough here in Tarija with a painful confrontation at the campesino market that lasted 11 hours. My friend’s sister, a market vendor, is unable to get to her stand; her perishables are ruined … Food prices have sky rocketed since the rise in oil prices. Every social class is in crisis, especially the poor who feel most keenly the disruptions and violence.

Since ENTEL has been taken over, there is no telephone system. I waited two hours in the bank line yesterday to cash a check only to discover that without a communication system, they could not accept it. Fortunately I don't need the funds immediately.

Lacking diesel, gasoline and propane gas, there is little transportation. Last night…we found the church locked with a tire burning on the street in front. Just as we turned to head back to the house, the police dispelled tear gas. I grabbed my friend´s 3 year old grandniece in my arms and ran to escape. Meanwhile, her niece ran for shelter with a one month old baby in her arms. Fortunately a taxi rescued us.

Stores and businesses are open only a few hours a day. We are so keenly aware of our need for God's help to restore peace to our beloved Bolivia.

The best source for breaking news in Bolivia is The Democracy Center. Yesterday's update is here.

Bolivia, I'm sorry my government is helping provoke this debacle. I promise I'll be watching. I will advocate for you up here, in the heart of the Empire.

photo #1 caption: The church at La Mamora, a tiny village in Southern Bolivia which once housed a Peace Corp volunteer. Bolivia now has no Peace Corps volunteers.
photos #2 & #3 source: The Democracy Center


thailandchani said...

At this point, I'm not sure whether it's the "heart of the empire" or the "belly of the beast".

I had no idea this was going on.


FranIAm said...

Oh my... what a post BE.

The people of Bolivia are ever suffering, the true poorest of the poor.

And the blot on our government for what it has done... and for what it has not done is a crime.

What a tragedy.

Thank you for sharing this trip which obviously comes from deep within your heart.

FranIAm said...

BTW I just fixed my earlier broken link and added a link to this post.

Randal Graves said...

The rich have always tried to game whatever system was in place in order to exploit the poor, and most non-richies realize this. What sucks is that so many here refuse to realize that we've been a big part of the problem since the days when we were a colony.

Whether those Bolivian land hoarders or imperialists like BushCo, I'll never understand that mindset of one dollar more.

Border Explorer said...

Chani, you are good; I like that belly/beast concept.
And I hadn't heard of Casey Anthony, so now we're even.

Fran, yes; yes to all you say. Thanks for reading this piece of my heart. Thanks for linking your readers here, so more will learn about Bolivia. As Chani points out, it isn't getting wide-spread coverage in US news. Your beautiful travelogue will pique their interest in Bolivia.

Randal, I'm still upset by my education (read: indoctrination) about US foreign policy & international relations. Truth...all I ask for is truth! I got a boat load of lies. "Why do they hate us?" the people ask. Now I know why, but I had to search the answers out for myself.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I knew nothing of this. Thank you for posting.

Dada said...

Thanks BE for this post, for the eye witness account it contains. Mrs. Dada and I were partaking a meal when we first heard of this.

Why is it, in this new century, it's ever so much more damned difficult to get through a meal without acids from angers rising in the back of my throat at a moment that is supposed to pleasurable, peaceful. Yes, again, attempting a pleasant repast, I got this sinking feeling (-- as in "Again and again and again!).

I remarked to Mrs. Dada, "Looks like the scourge of the Earth is at it once more."

Perhaps in some small way, millions of folks in the U.S. will soon gain just a hint of empathy for the Bolivians, for the misery inflicted upon them and all peoples around the world wherever the scourge is at work -- their very own government now working its will against its very own (blind) citizens, here in our very own "God bless America!" (sic)

Border Explorer said...

Ruth, thanks for stopping by.

Dada, good insight.
It seems that the U.S. will discover soon enough what it is like to be a 3rd World nation. Maybe it's time we learned some empathy. Maybe we have to learn it the hard way.