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Día de la Patría

just another episode from the Bolivian soap

semi-overcast 27 °C

Lately, I have been busy with not much other than my investigation, which is advancing steadily. I am now working on it with my Dutch friend, Jose, and it is great to brainstorm with her and to be able to complain to someone once in a while, when frustrations get in our way. Although I am still fascinated by my topic, my days aren’t filled with the kind of exciting stuff I can write about on a daily basis, so that’s why I have been writing less frequently.

The last couple of days have been interesting though. The sixth of August is Bolivia’s Independence Day, or Dia de la Patria. In Santa Cruz this obviously has a different feeling than in other cities, but the national anthem was sung proudly nonetheless and the red, yellow and green flag was omnipresent. Jose and I watched the parade at the plaza and soon discovered that aside from the flags and the national army being there, it was all really about honoring departmental organizations and businesses.

Santa Cruz’ prefect, Ruben Costas, went ahead in the parade and was applauded by the public, as were successful civil and social organizations, like the ones focusing on providing meals for school children or wheelchairs for disabled people. Jose was especially amazed by the fact that cruceño organizations like the local telephone company were represented as well. They were applauded for nothing other than being Camba companies, making the Cruceño autonomy plea possible, I guess. Nobody spoke a word about the joy of being free and independent. Bolivia’s greatest merit seemed to be the fact that it encloses the city of Santa Cruz and it’s rural areas.

Even a festive day like Dia de la Patria, has been turned into a political statement day. Jose compared it to days like valentine’s day, or mother’s day in Holland/Europe, where the initial topics of love and affection, have been placed on a secondary level, and commercial motivations are what keeps them alive. But who cares, right? A day off is a day off. :)

On this day, Evo thought it would be a good idea to visit Sucre, where he has little credit due to some police killings after a riot recently. His mission was to reconcile with the Sucreños and take a step towards unifying the country once more. The crowd in Sucre however, never gave him a chance. They started chanting anti-Evo songs and yelling that he was not welcome there. The police declared they could not guarantee his safety as the crowd grew louder, causing him to flee the scene before speaking a word.

Was he too optimistic in thinking he could charm his way through so much resistance? Did he not know the extent of the opposition he would be facing there? Did he really come to reconcile? Was the angry crowd summoned by Morales’ political opponents? As always, there are more questions than answers…

With his body still pumping with adrenaline and anger, Evo gave a rash press conference and pointed his finger at the Sucreño press, saying that this orchestrated madness just made their town look bad and that it didn’t harm him in any way, that he would most likely be reelected in December and that he would come back in the near future. The prime minister, Alvaro Garcia Linera, then gave an reckless speech of his own, making things even worse… All the officials that were interviewed afterwards only added to the insanity, using extremely strong language and creating an atmosphere that, in my opinion, is potentially dangerous.

And even though the day had started with calls for unity and newspapers honoring their homeland in different ways, just the day before Evo Morales had surprised us all with one of his incredibly unwise remarks. He had made a statement, proposing the Wiphala to be present beside the national flag on Independence Day in all departments. The Wiphala is a colorful, checkered flag that represents the indigenous peoples of the country, although it is mostly used in the Andes region and hardly ever by lowland Indians. In recent times, this flag has become a symbol of the governing MAS-party. You would assume he is aware of the tensions in his own country and that he would know such a remark would spark protests in this part of the country, but for some reason he just keeps presenting his opponents with easy reasons to hate him even more…

And when people are already accusing you of wanting to take everything away from the middle and upper classes and bringing the indigenous population on top in dictatorial fashion, why would you bring something up like the wiphala? The atmosphere was just settling down a bit, after he had upset the Cambas last month by saying they should change their departmental anthem. He said it was offensive to the nation because it included a line, honoring the Spanish heritage. According to him the colonial heritage was a painful one and should not be honored in an anthem… Since the percentage of Spanish descendants in this part of the country is relatively high though, such a line does not seem out of place and it really isn’t that offensive at all. The Dutch National Anthem also includes lines on our German and Spanish connections, even though we have had painful encounters in the past with these very same countries as well. And the second world war was a lot more recent than anything the Spaniards ever did to Bolivia. So Morales’ remark sparked inevitable and foreseeable new protests and the departmental government hung an enormous Cruceño flag on a building at the central plaza, saying “Our anthem is sacred”.

It’s almost as if people are addicted to drama. Too many telenovelas. Or are those soaps really art imitating life…?

I could go on and one about this, but I think I will just stop right here. I’ll try to make my next blog a more optimistic one…

Seeya later.

Posted by Evita 10:16 Archived in Bolivia

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