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Ascencion de Guarayos

semi-overcast 27 °C

Ascencion de Guarayos is the capital of a province called Guarayos, where indigenous people live called Guarayos who speak a language called Guarayo. That part is pretty simple. The first conversation I had after dropping my bags at the hotel, demonstrated how complex this place really is though.

I arrived in the evening after a 5,5 hour drive from Santa Cruz and was happy to find a place where they made good anticucho, a meal I remember being one of my favorites, but hadn´t eaten in 13 years. I loved the meal but was especially intrigued by the conversations I had while eating it.

A guy stepped over to my table and started the usual conversation: where are you from, oh holland... How interesting, I have a relative/friend there, what are you doing here, what´s your name, are you single, etc... The guy had a logging company (main source of income around here, for as long as it lasts) and exported his wood to all over the world. Then, a group of ladies arrived, who looked too fancy to be wanting to sit on a street corner on plastic chairs eating grilled cow heart, but they did so nonetheless... The guy I was talking to, knew them and introduced me to one of the ladies, who happened to work with foreign students. She had some girls from Austria in her house in Sta Cruz at this moment, who were also here for their thesis investigation, just like me, and she offered to help me with anything if I ever needed it, so that was a pleasant surprise.
Then, we started discussing the situation in the Guarayos region and one of the ladies reacted quite strongly and I soon discovered why. She was a large landowner, who lived in Santa Cruz and was visiting her property with some of her girlfriends. She asked me my name and said, "Eva.... like Eva Braun?"

I was kind of put off by her question, since I was used to getting semi-funny remarks from Bolivians ("If you´re Eva then my name must be Adam", etc), refering to my biblical counterpart, and never to Adolf Hitler´s wife. The lady then told me her father was from Germany and that he had bought the property when he came to Bolivia about 60 years ago... This info, together with her previous remark, allowed me to understand what kind of (cliche) person I was dealing with... Her friends were a little more nuanced but she kept on assuring me that Evo Morales is gay and that that just shows you how rotten the man must be deep down inside. No moral, no dignity, pure evil. Very interesting...

The next day I visited a lady who was also originally from Sta Cruz, but strongly supported the campesino-community (which consists of Guarayos, but also of many Kolla migrants) and held meetings and rallies at her residence. She also had a little shack in her backyard from where radio programs where broadcasted. She recieved anonymous threats on a regular basis and her radio station had been looted a couple of days before my arrival. The more I found out, the more confusing it all got. It seems to be everyone against everyone here. She said I should go talk to COPNAG, the organization that represents the Guarayos, but that I should go to the office across the street from the market. There was also another office beside the hospital, but that was "the other COPNAG".

Apparently the large landowners don´t work together on anything because nobody really gets along or wishes to work together. The small farmers are divided between longtime locals and migrants, who all have different ideas about how the land should be worked. Loggers were divided between the environmentally friendlier ones and the ones that just want to maximize their profits. And the one group that I thought would be pretty much on the same page, the Guarayo people themselves, were represented by this COPNAG, which split in two a couple of years ago... just about when Evo Morales came to power. I won´t ellaborate on the whole history of the situation, but I´m sure you understand my slight desperation as I dig further into the issue...

The next day, while checking my email at the local internet cafe, a redheaded American and two British sat at the computers beside me and started complaining about how slow their computers were, even though they had asked the lady at the counter to give them the fastest one. I told them that there was really no such thing as fast computers here and that it was just a matter of patience. The Americano looked startled and told me he didn´t expect to find someone who spoke English there. I told him he should learn another language if he didn´t want to be understood but he assured me that he hadn´t run into english speakers for a while... Apparently there is a wildlife sanctuary about 15 km from Ascencion, where 30 to 40 (!) volunteers from all over the world work with big cats and monkeys. They worked there as well, and had come into town to check the interwebz, which they didn´t have access to from the sanctuary. Their accomodation didn´t even have electricity.

The dude said he had been travelling for about 8 months but was going back to the States next week. I asked him how his journey had been and to my complete surprise, the guy told me he hadn´t really enjoyed it!!! He loved the landscapes and everything, but hated the way the people were treating it, how they treated their kids, the flora and the fauna. He had met very few nice Bolivians, though he admitted it was actually something he could apply to all of South America. He said he had lost all respect for the people and was glad to go back home............. I was completely baffled and thought about this conversation for a long time, before I could fall sleep....... I kind of.... slightly.... maybe.... understand what he means.... I mean, sure, I see skinny dogs on the streets, dirty kids with no shoes on, birds in small cages, horses with bad hooves and heavy loads on their backs and streets full of garbage.... but still... I still can not not enjoy being here....

pff.... confusion.... ... ...

Posted by Evita 13:08 Archived in Bolivia

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