Monday, 26 October 2009

A village

A village. A big one, but a village. Packed with cars and buildings, with the most modern of modernity, with big brands’ stores, with rich and exclusive neighborhoods. But still a village, filled with simple people who wander the streets of this big city indifferent to its size, living as if they were in just another Andean village, with the same clothes and simple habits lived for centuries, with only the occasional cell phone breaking the slow walk that prevents them from drowning in the lack of oxygen caused by altitude. A village of markets and churches and streets filled with people and colors and houses hanging from the walls of the valley that surrounds it, houses piled on top of each other, village over village, the many villages that constitute this big village of simple people. Village also filled with tourists, many of them strangers to it, living inside bubbles of westernization, from which they only come out when it’s time to leave, leaving without ever experiencing the true taste of this village, of its people, the true essence of La Paz. A village, where my rushed walk leaves me breathless, maybe because I let myself be fooled by its big city look, forgetting that after all I’m in a village, and in villages there is no reason to rush...

La Paz, Bolivia, August 2009


Looking at the parade that celebrates Bolivia’s independence, with Evo Morales waiving from the balcony at the people looking at him down from the street, I dream. I dream of the day when at the parade that celebrates a country there are no military or weapons. Let march the people, normal people, people that makes the country. Let march clowns and shoemakers, maestros, other musicians, carpenters and bricklayers, bankers and lottery sellers. Let march poets and writers, ironmasters and entrepreneurs, those who study and those who don’t, housewives and their sons, fishermen and farmers, doormen and taxi drivers, referees and sportsmen. Let march architects, engineers, patients, doctors and nurses, firefighters and truck drivers. Let march the crazy and the insane, without them there’s no parade, let march politicians as well, don’t let them stick to the stands, let the military join the people, all of us who were made equal, because not only with weapons and wars are arsenals filled with. Let march the country, the whole country, made by people that fills it and builds it, in each day’s struggle for living and being happy. Let's show the World the whole country, everything contained in it, not just the gun that keeps frontiers as they are. Let's show all that makes that country unique, its arts, its struggle, its work, all the blood and sweat spilled each day, the proud of being human, and love, yes!, love. Why show hatred or rancor or racism or stupidity? Shall the national embrace the foreigner, as the distinguished guest he is, shall the doors be opened to those who want to know who we are. Enough of hatred and fighting, of stupid borders and wars, enough of all those limitations and prisons that take away our freedom. The World is ours, of us all! Let’s celebrate the country as the culture it is, not as some damn birdcage involved in barbwire. I dream of the day when at the parade that celebrates a country there are no military or weapons. I dream, but when will the day arrive in which I will not have to dream about it anymore?

Sucre, Bolivia, August 2009

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The miners of Potosi

I can’t write. Words can’t come out of my mouth, I can’t chain thoughts, ideas or images, nothing comes out. I just lived one of the most beautiful experiences of my journey and still I can’t describe what I felt and lived. People, simple people, more hard working than what I ever was or will ever be, because they live all their lives dedicated or chained to an intense work inside a mine that practically gave birth to them, which gives birth to them one day after the other. People that inhales smoke and dusk, living in darkness to earn the close to nothing given by this sacred and dirty mountain, dilapidated by centuries of greed. People who have close to nothing, who once a year celebrate the luck of none of them having disappeared, asking once more to Mother-Earth not to swallow them. People who forget about everything else this day, doing nothing but smiling. People who do not know me, who I am, where I’m from, where I’m heading to, but still open the door of their house and welcome me as a brother, that long lost brother who has been away all their lives and who comes back to be welcomed as a king. ‘What are they waiting for in return?’, is asked by anyone whose mind has been soiled by our daily greedy living. They do not wait for nothing in return but smiles, wanting us only to share their joy, their drinks, the meat of the llamas they sacrificed to PachaMama, their music, their dances, their home. They wait for us to leave their place with the same smile they have, so we can return someday to smile together once more. I leave the place speechless and my writing doesn’t come out because I look around, I look back at the world and at my life and I feel dirty, unworthy of all this. I feel this world of ours has a lot to re-learn, that each day we step further and further away from what’s worthy, from what really matters. We’re forgetting each day that life for love and smiles can exist if we want it to exist, although we prefer each day to attach ourselves to material things, to so much stuff that distracts us and pushes us away from ourselves. And I’m not saying we should stop the progress of things, which brings us all so many worthy advancements and tools. I’m only questioning if we are taking the right path and the answer is so obvious that I feel like crying. We are destroying our world. More than our planet, which can take care of itself and will, eventually, eliminate us if we continue this destructive path, in the name of progress we are destroying human relations, the capacity to love, to give ourselves to one another, to trust each other. And it does not have to be like this, there are other ways of progressing fully, in every sense, without having to sacrifice mankind for a simple X% extra profit. And this endless greed is not new, it has been around for ages. Maybe due to our human nature some may say, or because of our inability of being totally free. But once and again it is in the presence of simple people who welcome me in their houses with arms wide open that I realize human nature cannot be used as an excuse. There’s still many of us in the world who, even without having a lot, give out everything they have for a simple smile. There’s still hope, but when will things change? What do we have to do, what can we do each day to change and improve the life of every single one of us? I look down at the paper once more and don’t know what to say, maybe because I lost my speech when I felt the strong hug and simple smile of the miners from Potosi that
stole the words from my mouth and swept my feet of the ground.

Photos: Karim BenBenai

Potosi, Bolivia, 1st of August 2009

p.s.: thank you very much Karim, for the photos and for guiding me into this experience.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The enchanted world of Uyuni

To follow their route the four knights had to cross the enchanted salt desert of Uyuni, which was said to be guarded by magical creatures and enchanted by mysterious spells. Guided by their faithful squire, who was taking them in his metal horse, they entered the immense white flat. After a few hours they reached a cactus oasis where the squire had to stop to let the beast that was carrying them rest for a while. While the knights waited a friendly old man invited them to walk a bit through the desert while he charmed them with lovely tales. When inside the desert the old men transformed himself! He was a disguised wizard who told them: "You entered this desert without paying your respects to Pachamama, the Mother-Earth, and she is furious with you! Now you'll have to go to the iced mountain to honor her or your friend will keep shrinking until he disappears forever." And throwing a lightning bolt with his hands he transformed one of the knights in a tiny one-inch dwarf, vanishing afterwards. While the three big ones looked at each other confused and picked up the now little dwarf knight putting him in one of their pockets, their faithful squire appeared and took them back to the oasis. After getting to know what happened he said: "We have to reach the mountain before dawn, or he will vanish forever!" They quickly left the salt flats headed to the sacred mountain. But in order to be able to enter it they had to first collect the four elements that would enable them to break the spell. So they did, going firstly to the lagoon where the sacred flamingos lived. There they collected a feather with which they would pay respect to the air. After that they went to the desert where they found a tree made of stone from where they took a leaf to homage the earth. The last stop before the mountain was the pink lake from where they took some of its magical liquid with which they would show their respect for the water. When they finally reached the mountain they had to face the freezing temperatures of the mountain's dawn so they could pray to the Pachamama. In front of one of the puddles of boiling mud they offered the other three elements inside the fire that came from inside the mountain, thanking Mother-Earth for the beautiful adventure they had just lived. The spell was broken and the little dwarf started to go back to his normal size at the same time the morning sun slowly rose in the horizon. Already able to hug his friends he grabbed them to thank their help. And so the the five stood there looking at the sun that was rising through the mist.

Uyuni, Bolivia, July 2009