Daniel & LiLA02.29.2004
Posted by Miguel at 07:04 PM | Permalink
On blogs & social revolution02.29.2004
At Stephen's party last night, I got in a socio-political conversation w/ an architect (who's name I can't now remember). It was quite constructive. We discussed all the typical issues: globalization, corporate media, liberalism, the rise of irrationalism & fascist tactics in the left & right, and even Chomsky.Continue reading "On blogs & social revolution"
Fulbrighters party down02.29.2004
My fellow Fellow, Stephen, hosted a small party at his Sopocachi apartment last night. So I closed O Mundo Café early & headed down.Continue reading "Fulbrighters party down"
Posted by Miguel at 05:09 PM | Permalink
Car bomb in Santa Cruz02.29.2004
A car bomb killed a Santa Cruz disctrict attorney, Mónica Von Borries, yesterday. It's not yet clear who set the bomb, but Von Borries was active in many important investigations during her career, including the fight against narco-trafficking. President Mesa issued a national state of alert; Interpol & FBI agents are arriving to help Bolivian officials w/ the investigation.
Posted by Miguel at 04:51 PM | Permalink
It was all about oil02.28.2004
Yes, it sort of was. The Middle East Media Research Institute (and many international newspapers) recently published a list of individuals & companies that benefitted from the Iraqi oil-for-food program in rather ... um ... unusual ways. The list includes French, German, and Russian politicians — including ministers, the French ambassador to the UN Security Council, and personal friends of Chirac, Putin, and others. Basically, politicians from every Security Council country opposing the US were on the list — except for China, which, if you recall, wasn't nearly as vocal as France & Russia. I wonder what that means?Continue reading "It was all about oil"
Posted by Miguel at 06:16 PM | Permalink
John vs. John02.28.2004
It's coming down to the wire for the Democratic presidential nomination. Lieberman, my favorite, dropped out weeks ago. Dean, my least favorite (well, actually it was Sharpton, but he was never really a contender), did, too. So now it's down to Kerry & Edwards. But the decision isn't getting any easier. Edwards' website outlines a security agenda; so does Kerry's. But both focus on the domestic side of anti-terrorism defense; neither discusses what to do w/ terror-sponsoring regimes.Continue reading "John vs. John"
Carnaval & Politics02.28.2004
At first, I felt foolish that I'd missed the new Bolivian constitution. After all, it's a major part of my studies. But parliament's been debating constitutional reforms for months, w/ little progress. I didn't expect anything so significant from parliament — especially not before Carnaval. I realized there was a "new constitution" while reading the political news & analysis PULSO (website not frequenly updated). So I began asking around. Well, it seems I'm not the only one who missed this significant event.Continue reading "Carnaval & Politics"
Carnaval in Oruro02.28.2004
My friend, M, posted pictures of Carnaval in Oruro on her website. She also danced caporales w/ a dance fraternity. This weekend she's dancing in Cochabamba.
As Bolivia's gas referendum approaches, many are hailing the birth of referendum democracy. I'm not convinced that referendum democracy is desireable or even a solution to the country's problems. For all its strengths, referendum democracy — in practice — has important drawbacks. It increases the power of bureaucracies. It reduces the scope of participation to small minorities. It reduces the quality & depth of debate on issues.
Continue reading "Referendum democracy?" at Southern Exposure
Posted by Miguel at 03:09 PM | Permalink
The politics I missed02.27.2004
As I prepared for my trip to Tarija, I forgot to mention an important event in Bolivian politics. In record time, parliament approved a new constitution (the third in twenty years). Wow. I'm still trying to get over that. The new constitution allows for a referendum, a Constituent Assembly, and more public participation — bypassing political parties. There are still other reforms required to make the new constitution viable. Specifically, a new electoral code. Problems in Bolivia aren't solved, of course. But this is a good start.
I'll pour over the new constitution (actually a long series of major ammendments to a very long constitution) and post some thoughts in a day or two.
My Tarija trip02.27.2004
I had a great time in Tarija, even if I didn't get to see any of the museums or vineyards — which were closed for the long Carnaval holiday. I even managed to do a brief, private Ash Wednesday at the Basilica San Francisco before catching my bus back to La Paz. The people in Tarija are splendid, and Hostal Bolivar had great service.Continue reading "My Tarija trip"
Posted by Miguel at 02:04 PM | Permalink
Pictures from Tarija02.27.2004
Here's a sample of pictures I took in Tarija. Click on any image to see it enlarged. Hovering over any thumbnail gives a brief description.Continue reading "Pictures from Tarija"
My problem w/ the UN is that I finally understood it's true organizational purpose. It's not to promote human rights or democracy. The UN was created after the Second World War to preserve the status quo and balance of power. It represents the interests of states, not people. It's more concerned w/ securing state sovereingty than human rights. And it makes no moral distinction between liberal democracies & tyranical dictatorships. If you've faith in the UN to protect the rights of oppressed individuals around the world, you'll be disappointed.
Carnaval in Tarija02.26.2004
Here's a sample of pictures from the corsos, Sunday, in Tarija. Click on any image to see it enlarged. Hovering over any thumbnail gives a brief description. The parade of corsos (group theme floats and/or costume parades) lasted almost six hours.Continue reading "Carnaval in Tarija"
Posted by Miguel at 06:39 PM | Permalink
I'm back from Tarija, catching up on blogging, email, and other things. I'll post more about my final Tarija experiences tomorrow (I'll write them up tonight). Then I'll post the pictures from Tarija. In the meantime, here's a few ramblings.Continue reading "Hodgepodge"
It surprises some that I consider myself a liberal. Of course, in the modern American political lexicon, a "liberal" is someone who supports strong state activism — the so-called welfare state. Another, older definition of "liberal" is someone who opposes strong states, except when it comes to explicitly protecting minorities from majorities. Liberalism, after all, was founded as a philosophical movement that advocated the rights of individuals against both state & society. That's the kind of liberal I am.Continue reading "On liberalism"
Antisemitism in the Left02.24.2004
Michael Totten has a good essay on antisemitism in the American Left. His focus? An editorial in Adbusters magazine that makes a point of name-listing Jews.
NOTE: I don't mean to imply that anti-Semitism is limited to the left (the right uses it a bit, too). Nor do I want to imply that everyone (or even most) of the American Left is anti-Semitic. Rather, I want to highlight that this is a growing problem (left & right) around the world. And while I don't think that being critical of Israeli policies makes one anti-Semitic, the approach taken by the Adbusters editorial clearly is.
Posted by Miguel at 04:17 PM | Permalink
A night of cacho & Astra02.24.2004
After a few more hours of dancing, I needed a break. So I headed down to the more-peaceful Plaza Sucre for coffee at Café Mokka. I managed to buy Sunday & Monday copies of La Razón and started catching up w/ the news — which mostly covered the various different Carnaval celebrations throughout the country.Continue reading "A night of cacho & Astra"
El mojazón y las barras02.23.2004
Today Tarija is a city-wide party. I won't have any pictures, however, since it's also a city-wide water fight (don't want to ruin my trusty sidekick). BTW, barra isn't a band, but rather the event itself (a stage w/ musicians, etc.) — the Barra de Gattopardo's the barra sponsored by Gattopardo Restaurant on the main plaza; there are other (smaller) barras throughout the city.Continue reading "El mojazón y las barras"
Tarija (brief report)02.23.2004
The entrada in San Lorenzo was interesting. I'd never heard erque music before. It's a single-note horn (literally, it's just a hollowed out cow's horn) & small drum. That's it. But somehow people know how to dance & sing to it. Still, it was lovely to see Carnaval in a small, rural village. It was so honest & pure.Continue reading "Tarija (brief report)"
Elections in Iran02.21.2004
The Iranian blogosphere's abuzz w/ election news (including censorship of websites). If you didn't know, the religious mullahs in Iran banned all secular candidates from running in today's election. The progressive, secular members of parliament (who're not being allowed to run for reelection) stepped down. It seems Iranians are avoiding the polls in a nation-wide boycott. The issue of whether Iran continues to democratize — or becomes a totalitarian theocracy — hangs by a thread.
This is why foreign policy is so important in the upcoming US election. Kerry has already started negotiations w/ the religious reactionaries in Iran to smooth things over, promising his presidency would be their friend.
I met up w/ some other ex-pats from La Paz who arrived in Tarija. This afternoon we're travelling to the nearby village of San Lorenzo (the heart of chapaco culture) for the entrada — the folk dance procession to start Carnaval. Some of my favorite chapaco songs are in honor of San Lorenzo, a valley full of flowers.
While I wait for the others to nap, I'm walking up to the Loma de San Juan. There's a mirador there from where you can see most of the little city of Tarija.
It's difficult for most to recognize just how different Tarija — and chapacos — is from the rest of Bolivia. Traffic here's pleasant, people don't honk their horns, or cut people off, or turn left from the right hand lane. The graffiti doesn't denounce Goni; it proclaims demands for exporting gas & "el gas no es de los kollas." The girls are lovely & speak in musical voices. The men laugh a lot & speak in baritone song.
A girl in Saginaw02.21.2004
Today is a good day. Someone I once cared about very much just emailed me. It could be the start of something good again. Time will tell.
Posted by Miguel at 12:47 PM | Permalink
I think rain follows me. I arrived in Tarija on a drizzling, overcast day. Not as cold as in La Paz, of course, but I didn't pack any warm clothes. This, of course, gives me an excuse to buy a poncho chapaco.Continue reading "In Tarija"
On to Tarija02.19.2004
I get on a bus to Tarija in about an hour. Then, a slow 24-hour cross-country trip. I'm sure I'll arrive tired, hungry, dirty. I just hope to find an open room at a hostel.Continue reading "On to Tarija"
Wake up, CNN!02.19.2004
Wow. The Associated Press and CNN finally discovered that there's a lively community of hundreds of Iranian bloggers out there (many in English, most in Farsi), reporting front-line news about the pro-democracy movement and repression in Iran. Of course, the blogosphere's been aware of them — and supporting their call for democracy — for years. But. At least maybe now they'll get the attention they deserve. Here's a list of Iranian blogs in English.Continue reading "Wake up, CNN!"
Posted by Miguel at 03:27 PM | Permalink
David vs. Goliath02.18.2004
Bolivar, one of Bolivia's better teams, is playing tonight against Argentina's Boca Juniors, current Intercontinental Cup holder & one of the winningest teams in Latin America. The game's in La Paz (where altitude does play a factor). So far, Bolivar's winning 3-1. Oh, and "El Diablo" Etcheverry — Bolivian soccer legend, recently returned from MLA's DC United — just took the field.
FINAL: The game just ended. Bolivar won an upset, 3-1. The game was part of the Copa Libertadores. Now, if only Oriente Petrolero could do so well ...
My vote's still up for grabs (sort of)02.18.2004
I'm catching up on the last bits of US presidential primary news. Dean finally dropped out (good), but I'm still uncomfortable w/ Kerry & Edwards (bad). Neither has come out w/ a strong statement supporting the war on terror — you know, the fact that terrorists do exist and that it's not just the figment of someone's imagination. So far, all I'm reading is the argument that Bush is a fear-monger (as if fear of international terrorism was all in my head) who'll destroy America. Ironic. They're using fear of Bush as a strategy to gain votes (fear-mongering?). But. If I have to choose between voting on the basis of fear of Bush (a mildly right-of-center politico), or fear of a terrorist network that recently murdered 30,000 of my fellow citizens ...Continue reading "My vote's still up for grabs (sort of)"
Odds & ends02.18.2004
I'm pretty much just getting ready for my bus trip (24 hours) to Tarija tomorrow afternoon. Here's to hoping I find a hostel room during the busy carnival season. Ah, but to be back in Tarija in the summertime! I'm even planning on meandering slowly back towards La Paz w/ a stop through Sucre ("La Ciudad Blanca de América"), Bolivia's historic & constitutional capital.Continue reading "Odds & ends"
Posted by Miguel at 03:55 PM | Permalink
Pictures from Cochabamba02.17.2004
Here's a selection of pictures I took in Cochabamba, Quillacollo, and Sipe Sipe. Click the thumbnail to view larger version.Continue reading "Pictures from Cochabamba"
Back in La Paz02.17.2004
I arrived in La Paz before dawn, following a long overnight bus trip. After a much-needed nap, I took a much-needed shower, and headed out for some Wi-Fi & coffee. It was a nice surprise to see that the 72-hour transit strike scheduled to start today didn't happen. Perhaps it's true, La Paz & El Alto citizens are fed up w/ the metropolitan area being used as a marchódromo.
The Cochabamba trip was more tiring than I'd have thought. I spent most of Monday afternoon trying to relax and recharge my batteries. But I picked up the 1993 & 2002 materials I'd asked for; the CEDIB staff will work on the 1985 & 1989 materials during the week, mailing them to my PO Box in La Paz. Not bad.
Total cost of the five-day trip: $72.44. Of that, I spent $15.31 on three nights at Hostal Central, $8.35 on round-trip busfare (and trips to Quillacollo & Sipe Sipe), and $31.06 on food. Of course, I ate more than I should've (about five times a day). But when in Cocha, you eat. But it's good to be back in La Paz. Even if I leave in a two days for Tarija — and Carnaval!
BTW. If you didn't get the joke I posted here, let me explain:Continue reading "Back in La Paz"
Iraqis stood their ground02.15.2004
A series of fedayeen attacks rocked Fallujah, Iraq, targeting Iraqi installations. The interesting story's buried in the article. The Iraqi police refused support from nearby American troops (most newspapers only wrote "US troops not involved"), but did ask for ammunition. After their victory, they proudly displayed the captured weapons. Could this be a turn in the tide? As Belmont Club writes:
That when dying and bleeding, beset by the flower of terrorism, with pistol to set against automatic rifle and grenade, the Iraqi police did not ask for help from 82nd Airborne. They asked for ammunition.
UPDATE: Reader Scott Barnard adds: What's remarkable is that many of these so-called insurgents are obviously foreign.
And yet Al-Jazeera still portrays the fight as Iraqis fighting the collaborators.
Two of the dead insurgents carried papers identifying them as Lebanese and one carried papers identifying him as Iranian, according to Iraqi and U.S. military officials.
The world's tallest Jesus02.15.2004
I walked about 2 km in the hot sun, constantly thinking I was almost there. Eventually, I got to the teleférico (cable car) station that goes up the hill towards the Cristo de la Concordia. Not an easy six minute ride in a tiny yellow bubble for someone w/ mild acrophobia.Continue reading "The world's tallest Jesus"
Third day in Cochabamba02.15.2004
I'm beat from yesterday's trek aroud Sipe Sipe. My shoes have just about had it, I've blisters on my feet, and I'm sore all over. That said, I slept until noon. Then, off for vegetarian food at Restaurant Goval (also run by Hare Crishnas).
I bought a paper (La Razón, because of its great Sunday magazine, Escape) and have only glanced through it. Carnaval madness is sweeping the country, so most news deals w/ that. Two tidbits I did find: The 125th anniversary of the War of the Pacific, w/ military speeches about taking the sea back & frantic crowds stomping on Chilean flags. Ah!, nothing brings a country together like xenophobia. Also, a MAS parliametarian & dirigente cocalero (Dionisio Núñez) drove his Jeep Cherokee drunk, crashed, and killed a female aid. How do you traslate Chappaquiddick?
Anyhow. Last night I tried going out to La Pimienta (on the Prado). But. In good Bolivia fashion, the show didn't start 'till past midight. The first band, Lupek, was pretty good — as far as an "alterative" cover band's cocerned. And the crowd was pretty into them. But I was too tired to last through the rest of their set. I walked back to my hostel.
This afternoon, I plan on hiking to the foot of the hill where the Cristo de la Concordia is. Then, take the cable car up to the summit. Should be a good view of the city and surrouding valley. And I hope to climb inside the world's tallest Jesus. I was thinking of a trip to Cliza or someplace else this afternoon. But I'm too beat. So just some coffee, read the paper, and maybe hit a movie tonight. I've to be all rested (& shaved) for tomorrow's "work" day.
Also, yesterday was St. Valetine's Day. I pretty much missed it. Then again, it's not a big deal in Bolivia. Which is odd, when you think about it. Since this is a Catholic coutry w/ so may saints' festivals. But I guess Valetine gets the short stick.
Oh, I also have a really good political joke involving the Virgen de Urkupiña (who's known for her faithfulness). It's from the 1989 election. The three major candidates all went to Quillacollo to ask the virgin to intercede on their behalf. Goni asked to win the election; Paz Zamora asked to become presidet; Banzer asked to rule Bolivia. All three had their wish granted.
Second day in Cochabamba02.14.2004
My first full tourist day. Woke up at 8:15, headed out to see the city. Breakfast at Cafe Frances (couldn't find Salteñas Potosinas). The archaelogical museum was closed, so I hit a few churches instead. Then off to Palacio Portales, which was a long walk through much of the city. But I made it in time for the 11am tour.
I lunched near Plaza 14 de Septiembre at the vegeterian Restaurant Ganesh — which, like most vegetarian places, is run by Hare Crishnas. Best vegetarian food I've had in Bolivia yet, perhaps best vegetarian buffet ever. Wow. And the place was very colorfully decorated w/ great taste (not the tacky style at most Hare Chrisna places I've seen).
From there, I took a 25-minute micro ride out to Quillacollo. Not much there, except the shrine to the Virgen de Urkupiña. I took a few minutes to walk around the plaza, noting the giant statue to UCS founder Max Fernandez (he was born in Quillacollo). The statue puts him in that oh-so-classic pose known as "the leader, hailing a cab."
Then off to Sipe Sipe (another 25-minute micro ride), thinking I could make it to the ruins of Inca Rakay. That was a poor decision. First, going alone off on a trek (and I don't normally trek) and thinking I could start so late in the day. I reached Sipe Sipe at 3pm. It was about a 30 minute walk to the foot of the very steep hill where the trail towards the ruins started.
But. I figured five months living in La Paz (much higher altitude than Cochabamba) walking 5-10 km a day, much of it uphill, would prepare me. Nope. I did get a good distance up the hill, though. I got to the peak of the hill; it took me just under 45 minutes. And then it hit me. The ruins aren't on top of the hill, they're another 5 km across the hill. Doh!
Well. I'd given myself until 5pm, which was my point of no return. After that, I'd have to turn back to at least make it to Sipe Sipe before nightfall. Walking down a 45 degree "stair" carved into a hill of sheer rock isn't safe.
It was 4:30. There was a campesino on the hilltop w/ a flock of sheep. I asked him (between breaths) if he knew how much farther it was to the ruins.
That's when it hit me. These ruins must be really, really far away. I turned around and headed back. The trip wasn't a waste, though. From up the hill I could see almost the entire Cochabamba valley, all the way to the city, and the Cristo de la Concordia (the world's tallest Jesus) off in the distanec. Breathtaking. Both literally, and figuratively.
"Far," he assured me.
"Could I make it in a half hour?"
"No. Probably an hour."
"Do you have any coca I can buy from you?"
"Oh. I suppose I should turn back, yes? If I want to make it back before dark?"
"Oh, too bad. I'm sure the ruins are nice."
"I don't know; I've never seen them."
From an Iraqi blogger02.13.2004
I found this post by an Iraqi blogger interesting. He tackles the question of where the WMDs are in general, pointing to a specific case he knows about first hand (as eye witness). The number of Iraqi bloggers (on all sides of the political spectrum) is growing. If you ignore their voices, you can't pretend to know their "best interests."
Posted by Miguel at 11:11 PM | Permalink
First day in Cochabamba02.13.2004
My first day in Cochamba's ending rather well. Since I'm here alone, I'm distracting myself w/ frequent, quick online bursts. It's been a cloudy, overcast day (w/ light rain on & off), so I haven't done much sight-seeing. Plus, I spend most of the afternoon at CEDIB, looking over their archives, marking what I want photocopied.
The CEDIB trip was great. They had 1993 & 2002 materials already sorted; I just had to pick out which pages I wanted (almost all of them). The 1997 materials are all on disk, so they're going to make me a copy (hopefully on CD). Materials for 1985 & 1989 elections will have to be gone through by hand. And they're willing to do that for me! I've to pay, of course, but it's not staggering. Monday I go pick up what's ready for me; the rest they offered to mail to my PO Box in La Paz. This trip is definitely worth my time, since it's saving me months of archive work I'd have to do instead.
Eduardo, a frequent reader/commenter, recommended some places to eat. And so lunch was Brazilian buffet. Nothing fancy, but great food. After my CEDIB visit, I walked to the monument of the Heroinas de la Coronilla, perhaps my favorite monument in the country. Took some pictures of the site, as well as the city as seen from the hill.
I then walked the Avenida Ballivian (which closely resembles Avenida Monseñor Rivero in Santa Cruz). I found a nice cochabambino restaurant — La Kantuta — and enjoyed pollo dorado (they were out of rabbit) & Taquiña (a local beer). Then back towards the city center, looking for an open café.
Tomorrow, I want to hit some museums around town, then a quick lunch, then off to Quillacollo (a village just outside the city). Not sure what else I'll have time for, but there's always Sunday. Saturday night, I hope to get back to Cocha to see a show at La Pimienta. We'll see how that goes.
So this is what reaction feels like02.13.2004
I got to Cochabamba all safe & snug at 6am. Checked into my hostel, took a nap. Went out to lunch at Restaurant Brazil-Beirut, suggested by a reader. Great food; good price. Since lunch hours are long in Bolivia, I decided to go for a stroll towards the café district on Calle España.
All the cafés were closed, w/ notes from the alcaldía. There was also graffiti, most of it denouncing someone named Hoepfer.
W/in a few minutes, I pieced together what happened. Hoepfer worked for the municipal government and led a campaign to close down all the cafés along Calle España. He denounced them for corrupting the youth, and especially since these were mostly run by "foreigners" (ironic, since Hoepfer's a German name). Many of these cafés were run by American or European emigrés who catered to the bohemian & tourist population.
I found one tiny café — Café Frances — open to the public. When I tried asking the owner about the other cafés, she was more than reluctant to speak. Fidgeting, nervous, she kept her answers as brief as possible. I got the hint, and dropped the subject.
UPDATE: I've since noticed that not all of the cafés on Calle España are closed, only about half. Still, it's a pretty scary thought that a major city would go on campaign against café culture.
Blogs vs. old media02.12.2004
I'm killing the two hours before my bus leaves for Cochabamba by catching up on the blogosphere. I tend to get most of my news & analysis from blogs these days, rather than from old media. It's not just that blogs are gaining a reputation for greater accuracy and timeliness (scandals at CNN, New York Times, BBC, the list goes on), but they're much more interactive.
Lately, I stumbled upon yet another group blog. This one covers election news & analysis. It's already broken several stories days (sometimes weeks) before old media. And it provides damned good analysis of the Dems, the GOP, and third parties. Check out WatchBlog.
A note on political blogs02.12.2004
I've noticed a weird trend in political blogs over the past year or so since I've paid close attention. Ideological sectionalization. By this, I mean that many blogs on the activist/radical left link only to blogs on the activist/radical left and no others. Even if they talk about a similar issue. This holds true, of course, for many on the more conservative right.Continue reading "A note on political blogs"
Friday at Ô Mundo Café02.12.2004
I'll be out of town, but I wan to post about our first live music show at O Mundo Café. Eventually, all that information'll be up on the café's official website — omundocafe.com — which I'm currently putting together.Continue reading "Friday at Ô Mundo Café"
Cochabamba, here I come02.12.2004
I leave tonight for Cochabamba. It's my first major trip since I've been to Bolivia (not counting family visits to Santa Cruz). I'm taking a few days' change of clothes & my Lonely Planet guidebook. I figure I'll stay four nights at a decent hostel. Friday & Monday are focused on research — w/ visits to CEDIB, and hopes of contacting Fernando Mayorga for an interview (or to at least schedule one).Continue reading "Cochabamba, here I come"
An ineffective transit strike02.12.2004
Today was the second day of the 48 hour transit strike against the de-freezing of gasoline prices (though prices haven't yet increased). The measure was labeled a failure by most papers. El Alto residents not only didn't march (as they were called on to do), but they jeered the road bloqueo near COR (Central Obrera Regional) and FEJUVE (Federación de Juntas Vecinales) headquarters.
Continue reading "An ineffective transit strike" at Southern Exposure
Posted by Miguel at 02:39 PM | Permalink
Did my first official interview today. Met Luis Tapia (faculty at CIDES, UMSA's post-graduate program) at his office. Since I'm doing informal interviews, we mostly just chatted freely (wherever the conversation took us) along the four basic "frame" questions I'm using. Now I have to transcribe the tape. He was also very helpful in referring me to a few more people to interview (the list is growing).
I had to go down to Obrajes for the interview, which wasn't a problem. Despite the second day of the transit strike, traxis & trufis (like taxis but w/ specific routes) roam the streets. Only micros & minbuses are absent. Supposedly, the strike ends tonight and things go back to "normal." Good. I'm taking a bus tomorrow night to Cochabamba for a Friday/Monday visit to CEDIB.
Also, my dad sent digital pictures of my two sidekicks back at their house. Apparently, Annie's still gaining weight. Sophie's as skinny & jittery as ever.
I've also preparing for my Carnaval trip — to Tarija. Yes, I know Oruro's the most popular destination. And I'm sure it's lovely (I've never been). But the event has a reputation for turning into a drunken mess. Plus, Carnaval trips are usually rather long trips; Oruro's a dreary place. I much prefer Tarija, w/ its beautiful gardens, wine country, music, and culture. Yes, I'm a camba, but I think I'm a little chapaco at heart.
Remember the Clinton years?02.10.2004
James Lileks, who I rarely have time to read anymore, posted this interesting piece of political history:Continue reading "Remember the Clinton years?"
Paro de transporte02.10.2004
The first major paro (strike) hit La Paz today. Public transportation workers vowed to go on a 48 hour strike to protest Mesa's economic plan — primarily the de-freezing of gasoline prices. Nevertheless, there's a significant number of taxis downtown, and even a few minibuses here & there.
Continue reading "Paro de transporte" at Southern Exposure
Posted by Miguel at 03:50 PM | Permalink
Empleadas & Tarantino02.09.2004
I finally got around to hitting the post office. I wasn't really expecting anything, but there were three packages for me. Two from my parents; one from my brother, Andy.Continue reading "Empleadas & Tarantino"
The week to come02.09.2004
I'm travelling to Cochabamba Thursday night, to be at CEDIB Friday. If things go well, I hope to pick up a large chunk of archival data all nice & packaged for me. Or, at least, to reiterate instructions. I'll stay over the weekend, see the sights, do the tourist thing. Then head back to La Paz Monday evening.Continue reading "The week to come"
Sunday night at the movies02.09.2004
Dragged myself out of bed after a long night, then met up w/ M in Calacoto, and headed up to downtown for coffee & a movie.
Finally saw El atraco, the new Bolivian film by Paolo Agazzi. I missed the "premier" in La Paz (the film actually premiered two days earlier in Santa Cruz). No regrets; the premier was invitation-only (few tickets for sale) and included speeches by Mesa & others.
The film was a great crime-mystery story. Based on true events, it tells the tale of a 1961 highway robbery of millions in miners' salaries — planned & executed by two police officers, w/ the support of some high government officials. When it comes time to investigate the crime, a straight-laced, by-the-book detective is assigned to the case, along w/ a rough-around-the-edges detective — who just happens to've been the heist's leader. In the end, the film's not so much about the heist itself, as about corrupt institutions.
I enjoyed Agazzi's El día que murió el silencio, which was the first time I'd seen "magical realism" interpreted beautifully & believably on film. Like Silencio, Agazzi's El atraco featured Latin American & Spanish actors. I think the inclusion of foreign actors helps, since all-Bolivian productions (like Los hijos del último jardín) often suffer from mediocre acting.
After the film, we ran into some friends of M's and went out for dinner at a chifa (a Chinese restaurant) in Sopocachi. It wasn't until after we were leaving the restaurant & saying our goodbyes that I realized Mechum was the brother of Newley Purnell — a fellow blogger who also writes for Southern Exposure. What a small world.
We had our "official grand opening" for O Mundo Café last night (though we've been open for two weeks). It was filled mostly w/ invited friends & family of the other three owners. I kept the event a bit low-key, since I was worried we weren't quite ready (we weren't, but we did a tremendous job winging it). I also realized everyone would end up chatting w/ their friends & family, and since it was my shift to work that night, I'd stay behind the bar and try not to get too uptight (I can be a bit "fussy" at times).Continue reading "Success"
Afghanistan of the Andes?02.08.2004
There's a recent meme circulating about Bolivia becoming the "Afghanistan of the Andes." While this is in the realm of possibilities, I don't think it's in the realm of probability. Yes, Bolivia's suffering a crisis of governability. It's also true that Bolivia's involvement in international cocaine production makes exercising government control even more difficult. And, finally, there's evidence of at least nominal involvement by guerrilla groups in Bolivia. But. The analogy between Bolivian & Afghanistan is tenuous, at best.
Continue reading "Afghanistan of the Andes?" at Southern Exposure
Posted by Miguel at 02:19 PM | Permalink
It's a sad day. I dropped Catwoman from my comics pull list. I loved the first 24 issues of Brubaker's remaking of the not-so-good protector of Gotham's East End. I looked forward to each month's new issue — Catwoman was among my top-five favorites.Continue reading "R.I.P. Catwoman"
Bolivian political parties (a primer)02.06.2004
Since the 1982 transition to democracy, Bolivia evolved a multiparty system revolving around three major parties (MNR, ADN, MIR). These are the parties that produced the nation's presidents since 1985. For much of this time, the party system seemed balanced between two blocks (MNR & ADN-MIR) which alternated in & out of office. The party system also included, of course, numerous other parties of various size & strength.
Continue reading "Bolivian political parties (a primer)" at Southern Exposure
Posted by Miguel at 02:21 PM | Permalink
Unidad Nacional on campaign02.05.2004
Several weeks ago, Bolivian business mogul Samuel Doria Medina left MIR (Movement of the Revolutionary Left) & launched his own political party, FUN (Frente de Unidad Nacional). Last week, Doria Medina joined some alteño dirigentes in a march through El Alto. This past week, the party's militantes have been out around town signing people up. I've seen them in front of the post office; yesterday I saw a booth near the UMSA (Universidad Mayor de San Andrés). There's no doubt Doria Medina (the richest man in Bolivia) is making a significant move to boost his political profile. After all, municipal elections are in December.
Continue reading "Unidad Nacional on campaign" at Southern Exposure
Posted by Miguel at 02:31 PM | Permalink
Who wants ribs?02.04.2004
Say what you will about Dubya, at least he's good for a few laughs. Here's a transcript from a recent informal press conference (hat tip Buzz Machine) at the Nothin' Fancy Cafe in Rosswell:Continue reading "Who wants ribs?"
Posted by Miguel at 02:15 PM | Permalink
I may not have to spend many more hours at the Library of Congress anymore for my dissertation research. I just got off the phone w/ the friendly people at CEDIB (Centro de Documentación e Información Bolivia) in Cochabamba. They have, essentially, what CEDOIN (which no longer exists) had: category-indexed newspaper clippings.Continue reading "Jackpot!"
Mesa presented his austerity plan (of sorts) Sunday night. There's no gasolinazo nor garrafazo in store — at least not yet. The entire plan includes 23 executive decrees & 3 bills presented for parliament's approval. It also involved six "focus areas": austerity; production, exports & job creation; solidarity; highway infrastructure; changes to the Ley de Hidrocarburos; and fighting the fiscal deficit. Mesa labeled his his strategy as a "heterodox." But while Mesa emphasized the idea of collecting more state revenue, his plan actually increased government spending in many areas.
Continue reading "The Plan" at Southern Exposure
Posted by Miguel at 03:20 PM | Permalink
O Mundo Café now has espresso02.02.2004
Well. I bought a La Pavoni espresso machine today for the café. It's not a large industrial size machine, which would've been ideal. But rather than wait months for something to arrive by sea/air/land, and in order to have something to serve espresso w/ in the meantime, we bought a Europiccola.Continue reading "O Mundo Café now has espresso"
El Alto & Bolivian politics02.02.2004
There's been some attention paid to the role of El Alto (the sprawling slum twin city of La Paz) in national politics. After all, October's guerra del gas was primarily an alteño affair. It wasn't until after the city of La Paz had been besieged & cut off from the rest of the country for three weeks that the middle class finally "joined" the protesters in demanding Goni's resignation. A recent poll on the upcoming gas referendum shows just how different — and dangerous — El Alto can be.
Continue reading "El Alto & Bolivian politics" at Southern Exposure
Posted by Miguel at 03:54 PM | Permalink
Tonight we find out02.01.2004
The city's abuzz, anticipating Mesa's big speech tonight at 9pm. He's going to unveil his administration's economic austerity plan. The government has to somehow bridge the gap between income & expenses (it spends about twice as much as it brings in). How'll Mesa do it? What's the big plan?
Continue reading "Tonight we find out" at Southern Exposure
Posted by Miguel at 06:59 PM | Permalink