Thursday, June 14, 2007
A short Bolivia Tutorial
Bolivia is a country of almost 9 million people high up in the Andes in South America. It's Latin America's 5th largest country though much of its territory is sparsely inhabited due to rugged landscape and a harsh climate. The low population density contributes to vast, incredible, untouched, raw, barren beauty. On the altiplano, snowy mountain peaks always remind you that you are soaring in high altitudes. (That and the fact that you can only climb two of three stairs at a time because you are gasping for breath in an effort to inhale just a little bit of oxygen.)
Bolivia remains a largely indigenous culture with between 50-60 percent of its population being of pure Amerindian descent. Because of this Bolivia has a very special feel about it. A visitor feels like they are getting a peek into what the world might have looked like in ages past. Culture is strong. Music is often playing and from what I saw its marching bands not pan flutes. Politics are vibrant, peaceful protests fill the street, and their new first indigenous president, Evo Morales, has a big presence. The majority of its women still wear traditional dress, which means bowler hats, long braided black hair, thick ruffled petticoats and woven shawls. This sight never ceased to turn my head eventhough they were everywhere.
What also makes Bolivia special is that its not overrun by tourists. Although I certainly wasn't the only one there, I did feel like it was still fresh. All it took was walking one block off the beaten path into a market or residential neighborhood and there wasn't another gringo in sight. And the markets are the thing to see in La Paz, the capital city, where every sidewalk is a potential sales space. 300 types of potatoes, stockings in multiple colors, the Witches Market, selling remedies to all your ailments and superstitions and also not to be forgotten wonderful fresh street food was everywhere. At only about 25 cents a piece, what was to stop me from trying one of everything??? I know you all would have really enjoyed my four level mallomar which was just freshly dipped in chocolate...
Scroll below for more stories and photos of this special country and hopefully you will feel a little of its magic.
Posted by Cordelia