Culture Collection “Fiesta”

The edges jumble and tumble in my pocket. A corner pricks my thigh. I dig in to find the culprit. Ah, it’s a rhinestone, complete with the metal poky things from the Bedazzler. They say these plastic eye catchers are fake. Somehow it made it’s way to my rock collection. So I pull it out. Now I will tell you about it.

This month the major cities of Bolivia celebrate 200 years of existence. That is a big deal! The previous month was the celebration of the founding of the nation 185 years ago. Simple math tells us that the cities are 15 years older than the actual nation.

When the country was finally established as Bolivia, thanks to some help from Simon Bolivar, it had a land mass larger than today’s Brazil complete with a coastline seaport on the West border. What happened to cause it to shrink to a landlocked little place with the land mass the size of the state of Texas?

As is the case with the founding of any nation there are wars. Chalk it up to passivity (some use stronger words), I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and call it generosity, whatever the character of the people way back then, every time Bolivia entered into a war they lost land.You know what they say about hindsight? It is quite clear that some leaders made some bad decisions.

The first one that comes to mind is a man who was a bit unclear about how the whole measuring of the land worked. Evidently he was offered a horse he greatly desired in exchange for certain parts of the country. In the end Bolivia lost over half it’s land mass and the man had a really nice horse.

The other case in point is the proverbial burr in our saddle to this day. We have a “Day of the Seaport” to morn the fact that Bolivia is now landlocked. There is even a song pleading with whomever to return to us our seaport. Much blame is placed on Chile, for the war was with them. It just so happened that the war took place  nearing the yearly week long party called Carnaval (akin to Mardi Gras) celebrated throughout South America.  As the days approached Bolivia made the decision to essentially take a break from the war so as to observe the festival. Maybe there were agreements made between the two countries to take a pause. That I know not. If there were agreements of the sort they were not honored by Chile. At the end of Carnaval Bolivia no longer had a seaport. Was it stolen? Was it given away? Who knows?

A recent example of this priority of party were the devastating forest fires in Tunari National Park to the North of the city just last month. We are in the dry, windy season so those forces made the fire hard to stop. The lack of manpower also contributed to over a million acres of burnt land. In an interview with the chief of the fire department he said, “The bulk of our firemen are volunteers. Most of them are at the festival of Urkupina now. When they get back we will try to get the flames under control.”

This generosity that causes the Bolivians to cede land and the like is hitting a bit to close to home this morning. The final adoption hearing we have had mandated for about a month has been postponed in observance of the bicentennial celebrations throughout the city. The partying started last week. I had a bad feeling when they decided on Friday to cancel school Monday (today). Tuesday is the actual anniversary of Cochabamba, so why not throw in Monday as a bonus?

Generosity is a fine virtue. Must it be elevated above the values of honoring ones commitments, though? The country has over a dozen official holidays in the year. Seems high to me; compared to other places it might be low. Personally, this is a point of continual culture shock for me. My value system places industriousness above historic observations, advancing accomplishments over reveling in the past, and follow-through over spontaneity. Does one virtue supercede others? As evidenced today the answer is yes. I just would have chosen a different virtue to conquer today.

So we continue to be patient as we wait for our final court date. Obviously there is no rush on behalf of Bolivia seeing as Kaitlynn has been in our home for 16 weeks.  Somehow I need to find a way to depressurize my anxious urgency and find a resting trust without abandoning those parts of my character that I feel are important to defend.


5 thoughts on “Culture Collection “Fiesta”

  1. As an American I can’t talk about one country taking land from another in war, because that is how we got Texas, California, and a few other states, from Mexico.

    From what I have read Bolivia has been subject to political instability for well over the last 100 years, with the wealth going to a few, while the majority just get poorer.

    I can see where the people could adopt the attitude of why work hard for the future, when there is little hope it will make any difference. Just live to enjoy today as best they can. I think of the poverty stricken in Brazil who spend so much of their energy on Carnival.

    I think we Americans may have the fastest pace of any culture. It must be a huge culture shock to live in a country where people move the music of the charango , and not the sound of the cash register.

    I hope they stop partying long enough to get you your day in court.

    1. Ed you hit the nail painfully on the head when you said, “I can see where the people could adopt the attitude of why work hard for the future, when there is little hope it will make any difference. Just live to enjoy today as best they can.” That is EXACTLY the attitude.

  2. I’m sorry for yet another delay for you. Especially due to previously unscheduled public holidays!

    Our host country definitely values the here-and-now over looking to the future, to the point where we look at each other and think, “How in the world can they think that way?!” But we are learning to live with it, and deal with it!

    About the public holidays… Indonesia celebrates ALL religious holidays for ALL of the “national religions” (I think there are 5…), so along with the national holidays (things like independence day, etc…) that translates to about 30 government holidays every year. Yikes.

  3. Going back in time to glean some of your cultural info. :) My husband, three girls, and I moved to Coch in February. Ran across your site via formissionarymoms and had to check you out. :) Thanks for sharing!

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