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Estamos en Bolivia!

July 28, 2006

Okay, so I´m writing sooner than I thought–it turns out that EVERYTHING is closed between 12 and 2:30 in Bolivia except for restaurants and Internet places, which are cheap, so Paul and I decided to send a few messages home and I to record a few thoughts here while Bolivians take their afternoon break.

Paul and I keep looking at each other and exclaiming, “We´re in Bolivia!”–as if we still can´t believe it.  (We also occasionally look to each other and exclaim, “We´re married!”, although less frequently than during the first few days after our wedding.)  It´s exciting to be here, in a country on which I´ve never focused much attention aside from the bare bones history I learned in my Latin American studies classes at Penn State–a very sad history, second only to Haiti´s, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere (Bolivia is second on the list).  Paul and I are learning as we go along–and we´re learning a lot.

For example, after chatting with a local 20-something on Wednesday, we learned that eastern Bolivians (“cambas”) harbor a measure of resentment towards western Bolivians (“chollos”).  There is a movement here in eastern Bolivia to win more state autonomy from the federal government, and if you were to look at a map of Bolivia, you´d understand why:  the state of Santa Cruz, which we are currently in, is the largest in Bolivia and encompasses a diversity of landscapes and resources.  We were warned not to inquire too much about Evo Morales, the populist president and a chollo, in these parts of Bolivia, where he is not very popular (Mariana´s observations have been confirmed by our own graffiti sightings demanding autonomy from Evo´s government and declaring Evo to be the puppet of Hugo Chavez). 

I´ve also been reading about a Constituent Assembly that is about to commence in Sucre, Bolivia´s political capital (La Paz is the economic capital), on August 1st.  Our driver yesterday explained that each state elected representatives to convene over the course of the coming year to discuss what they´d like to see in a new Bolivian constitution–a new experiment in participatory democracy that I will be highly interested to follow.  The representatives, from what I´ve gathered, were elected according to party affiliation but are not professional politicians.  From 12 to 1, Paul took the siesta time literally and napped while I read the local paper to find out more about the Assembly.

There is plenty more to share, which I´ll do over the course of our trip if we find ourselves without much to do during the afternoon siestas–otherwise, I´ll have much to write upon our return.

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