Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Festivals and Miners

Oruro is Bolivia´s festival capital. We are pre- Carnival mood here in Bolivia. Carnival happens on February 2nd and Bolivia goes crazy. All day and night in the major cities (and some of the minor cities) - groups of people get dressed in amazing devil and other traditional costumbes and dance through the streets. 15-18 hours of a proccesion. With huge walking bands of trombone, trumpet and drum players in front and behind the dancers. Its incredible. Ororo had a pre-run while I was there and it was the most INCREDIBLE cultural event I have seen.

There must have been 50,000 people participating in a 17 hour long proccesion, dancing and playing up a long four hour route to the cities church. At the end of their four hour dance the group would go into the church , get down on their knees and crawl for 10 minutes to get to the front of the church and hear from a Catholic priest. As most instrument players and dancers had been drinking beer solidly through their sun drenched and rain drenched dance fest, they were mostly quite pissed! And tired! And eating coca leaves to stay upright! Amazing! All in ´gods church!´ Quite, quite incredible.

There was one group that commemorated those who lost their lives in the fight against the Spanish. There was a slow moving indigenous group that had two big indigeous banners flying in the air. Beautiful. There was a group of men and women who had used these instruments that were dead amarillos, stuffed with wood to give them inner strength, and stuck on a winding peice of wood. The dancers would swing these dead amarillos around, and a constant beat would come out. Incredible!

I was in awe! Now, as I am in Sucre, a richer city of the Media Luna, the right wing - there have been two mini pre Carnival festivals. One, a group of young people saying dont do drugs, drinking in excess. And no smoking. And use condoms. Pretty cool all up. Wasnt a straight out moralistic message, just not in excess. The state health department had a stall about AIDS and a big diagram on how to have safe sex. Great graphic pictures of penises and condoms. Good stuff! Havent seen anything like it in La Paz. The other little fest was young people going crazy dancing to trombones, trumpets down the main street. All very cool. Sucre´s mayor is pro Media Luna, but the department (state) governor is pro-Morales.

Bolivia, apart from going festival crazy is also experiencing horrid torrencial rains, bought on by La Nina effect. Thanks to global warming at least 5 people have died, hundreds of people are stranded and homeless. Evo Morales has told first world governments they have to cut greenhouse emissions, in response to Bush and co.´s "third world countries have to pull up their socks" for the world to solve the warming crisis.

With a Spanish speaking friend I went to visit a mining town, Huanuni, outside Oruro. We got in an visited the mine and talked to the workers about conditions pre-Morales and conditions now. Lovely!

The basic salary in Bolivia is 550 Bolivanos per month. That is $72 American . Miners receive 5000 bs per month minimum in top sections of the mines (less dangerous). Miners who work in the bottom, more dangerous part of the mine receive $15, 000 bs per month. In the mine we visited 3 people had died at work last year. The amount of miners who are dying is way down from when the mine was in a private, French company, hands.

As I am trying to learn more Spanish I will write a little in it about Che Guevara.

Cuando yo fui a eso pueblito cerca de Oruro yo vi una poster con fotos de Che Guevara a differente partes en su vida. Una foto fue de Che muerte. Muy triste. Pero le cosa bonito sobre eso poster fue el dicho en la fondo de eso poster. Eso es "Si avanzo me sigo. Si paro el empujón mí. Si vuelvo me mato" Creo que es muy hermoso.

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