Every so often on my walk through life I happen upon an interesting stone that begs me to pick it up, examine it for a bit, smile with amusement and put it in my pocket. I call it my “culture collection”. Thought I might pull some out to show to you.
So here in Bolivia the people are keen on every type of protest. You have your blockades, your strikes, your hunger strikes and your combo style where they do all of the above and everything shuts down for about 24 hours. I poke fun at it but it can lead to violence and putting people’s lives at risk. So I don’t condone it in the least. But I have to laugh because if I don’t find some bit of humor in it I will become a bitter old woman.
Yesterday, as I was out buying a purse, we drove across an intersection to a perfect parking spot just in the nick of time. A street full of protesters was noisily coming up. As we got out of the vehicle my friend asked, “What do we do now?” I said, “We cross the street.” And we walked right through to get to the purse shop with the smell of fresh sulfur from the fireworks filling our nostrils and the din of the crowd filling our ears. The grievance was a recent disagreement in police policies.
Earlier this week there was a march in which all the protesters had in their hands empty pots and pans. As they banged along they were hoping to find some solution for the recent rise in grocery prices due to an over-abundance of rain that had ruined much of the crops.
This morning we had a good laugh as we were coming back from our trip up and down the steps of the Cristo. My friend tells me that she was trying to go do her running around down town a couple of days ago and there was a blockade on one of the streets. She asked what the complaint was and they told her that they wanted the city to put more street lights on the street.
Sometimes they take turns protesting. The groups get together and one says to the other, “Hey, Tuesday we are going to have a strike because gas prices are going up.” And the others say, “Oh, we wanted to have a hunger strike that day because our company hasn’t paid us in about six months, but I guess we can wait until Wednesday.”
It was amazing to me when the prisoners in the prison had a hunger strike because they wanted a different warden.
Every once in a while the national news gets wind of an especially vocal group standing up for their cause. Then we get emails and phone calls asking us if everything is ok because they saw on the news that there were blockades. Usually I respond saying, “Oh, what are they complaining about this time?” In the six plus years we have lived here there hasn’t been a week that has gone by that there was not a public protest of some sort. So often is this the case that my language teachers so many years ago taught me a vocabulary group that included all the different words for the styles of protests that exist in this beloved Bolivia.
Ok, I am putting my stones back in my pocket. Maybe I will pull them out and show some different ones to you another time.