Waiting for Bolivia
by Upside Down World
The taxi driver makes out with someone in his cab next to the hamburger stand while teenagers drink warm beer and a street vendor sells “original” pirated versions of E.T. in Spanish. The multi-colored Christmas lights strung around the palm trees play music and blink. On the way to the party, someone is attacked by an angry dog.
To know the countryside is also to know the city because there is a lot of countryside in the city. Cows weave through traffic. Confused roosters respond to car horns. Dogs rule the wilderness of the street at night. In the markets, piles of potatoes, carrots and oranges smell like the earth. The cries of rural campesino movements are spray painted on the sides of city buildings. Everyone is waiting for Pachamama (Mother Earth) to appear. Instead, the billboards, cars and shopping centers grow like weeds through the cement.
(Che sticker holds the window together.)
While getting a haircut in Cochabamba, I am informed that “all politicians and journalists are liars.” At a bar, I am told, “Ah, you’re a journalist! You’ll never run out of stories here in Bolivia. There are more stories in Bolivia than in Iraq!” At an internet café, I am asked “Have you ever heard of Sir Frances Drake? Well, he’s actually buried in Bolivia…” In Heladeria Imperial, the owner stops in his tracks when he sees me eating ice cream at one of his tables: “Why are you serving him?” He yells at a waitress, pointing at me. “The customers that only show up every three months aren’t worth a damn thing!” Elsewhere, a drunken man enters a photo exhibit, kisses an image of Hugo Chavez and yells at characters in the other photos.
Cochabamba’s chicha (alcoholic drink made from fermented corn) is familiar. So are the cheeks stuffed with coca, Marxist theories and the true and friendly “there are no borders” lectures that usually surround buckets of chicha. At one such encounter, there were so many pictures of Che Guevara that one person said, “Che Guevara looks like John Lennon. Maybe they were the same person.” Eventually, even the city starts to look like Pachamama.