"There is a mountain range, there in Bolivia, the Altiplano, where the Revolution could spread to the rest of South America."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bolivia: El Pais Del Futuro

The world today to a greater or lesser extent is controlled by various giant international institutions dominated by the United-States; the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations, and several other smaller regional organizations. U.S. President Obama calls them "an architecture of institutions", we can call it more accurately the imperialist superstructure of power. In the past decade Cuba and Venezuela have done their part to counter the structural dominance of capitalism, by promoting Latin American integration, and by creating ALBA, and the beginnings of the Banco del Sur. ALBA is a regional body of Latin American solidarity for the reciprocal exchange of goods and services aimed at achieving a mutual continental social well-being, and the Banco Del Sur is a continental and potentially international bank to provide funding for projects of self-sufficiency, social programs and development, a tool for economic independence and self-determination. In the past year, it is Bolivia that has led the way, and stepped forward with the hugely significant, original, and advanced ideas and concepts of Evo Morales, Alvaro Garcia Linera, and the MAS party.

Climate Justice and PachaMama Politics: Humanity and Planet Earth's Reciprocal Love Affair

Evo Morales' work on climate justice now has become extensive, but Bolivian thinking in this respect has gone so far that the term 'climate justice' doesn't even begin to accurately describe the scope and depth to which they have developed this topic. The first aspect is considering climate justice from the direct political and legal point of view, and within the existing and would-be existing international structures. Bolivia has spoken in the name of the Bolivian people at dozens of major international gatherings, conferences, and summits, including several times at the United Nations, about the abusive relationship between capitalism and Planet Earth, and about establishing an international climate justice tribunal. They have also pushed to entrench an internationally recognized and respected document similar to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, only one of an environmental nature that would outlaw and prevent the ravages of capitalism against humanity and planet earth.

Pablo Solon, Bolivian ambassador to the United-Nations, and Cormac Cullinan an environmental lawyer have worked on creating a definition:

"One of the most important implications is that it would enable legal systems to maintain vital ecological balances by balancing human rights against the rights of other members of the Earth community. Presently many environmentally harmful human activities (including those that cause climate change) are completely lawful.... Just as slave laws, which turned humans into property, entrenched an exploitative relationship between the two, our legal systems have entrenched an exploitative and inherently damaging relationship between ourselves and Earth. Even most environmental laws do little more than regulate the rate at which environmental destruction may take place."

"If legal systems recognized the rights of other-than-human beings (e.g. mountains, rivers, forests and animals), courts and tribunals could deal with the fundamental issues of environmental contamination rather than being bogged down in the technical details of permitted pollutants and emissions. For example, a rights-based approach could evaluate whether the rights of humans to clear tropical forests for beef ranching should trump the right of species in those forests to continue to exist. Instead of devising ever more complex schemes to authorize environmental damage and to trade in the right to pollute, we would focus on how best to maintain the quality of the relationship between ourselves and Earth."

This definition is a very well rounded basis for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, as the document will be called. An alternative international climate conference to rival Copenhagen 2009, to be hosted in Bolivia, is being promoted and scheduled for April 20-22, 2010. Evo has also elaborated on the predictably faulty 'solutions' that capitalist thinking has conjured to 'counter' climate change, namely carbon credits and the trading of emissions, in saying that "even climate change itself has become a business." He is correct in saying that the system of profit seeks to make a commodity even out of the destruction of the planet.

Another element of the climate justice discourse that Bolivia has stressed is that the industrialized countries be held accountable in paying back their ecological debt, to recover the health of southern communities, environments, and resources that have subsidized the wealth and prosperity of the developed world, and to prevent further deterioration where irreparable damage has already been made. An excerpt from the International Climate Justice Tribunal hearing in Cochabamba, Bolivia, on the 13th and 14th of October 2009 explains how "Climate Justice is based on the understanding that, whilst climate change requires global actions, the Northern Industrial Countries are historically responsible for having produced the greatest part (80%) of greenhouse gases over the last 250 years. Low cost energy -oil, coal and gas- has been the power behind their quick industrial and economic growth, without recognizing the ecologic, social, financial and historical debt to the southern communities and nature, for which they are responsible." Honesty and accountability figure prominently in the new international values system being promoted by ALBA and the Bolivian agenda, and as such the justice of truth will come down hard on the hypocritical politics of lies and status-quo regression that were the product of the climate talks of Brokenhagen 2009.

At the UN General Assembly in October Evo said; "I came here today to speak plainly with you all. The origin of this crisis is the exaggerated accumulation of capital in far too few hands. It is the permanent removal of natural resources and the commercialization of Mother Earth."

Evo Morales is an incredible analyst of the dynamic between the preservation of life vs. the culture of consumption, depletion, and death. He is able to illustrate in simple terms the impossibility of massive and disrespectful consumption, that in the necessity of eliminating the linear system on a finite planet, in order to redistribute equitably to end poverty, we must first end wealth, we must end this "exaggerated accumulation of capital." The strength of the Bolivian Revolution is its capacity to combine themes of class relations, with political and economic independence, with environmental justice, with gender equality, with communitarian sustainability, etc., to leave no element untouched, no rock unturned, and to formulate everything together into a very unique humanitarian, emancipatory paradigm of the future.

To give further examples of this, again I quote Evo Morales from the General Assembly: "Mother Earth, Planet Earth, will exist without human life, but human life cannot exist without Mother Earth.... I’ve concluded that in this new twenty- first century, defending Mother Earth will be more important than defending human rights. If we do not defend the rights of Mother Earth, there is no use in defending human rights. I am willing to debate this concept, but now or later it will be proven that the rights of Mother Earth supersede the rights of human beings. We must protect what gives us life."

Although Bolivia has become a leader in environmental justice and a lot of attention has been focused on the environmental discourse, there are also a lot of other elements of Bolivian ideology that deserve a close focus.

As much as the media tries to spin that the socialist governments of South America want to control resources only for their benefit and their so-called 'populist' advancement, the autonomy that was such a central theme throughout the Bolivian election shows just how committed to decentralization the MAS government really is.

Alongside the Dec. 6 presidential and legislative elections, 12 of Bolivia's 327 municipalities voted in favour of indigenous autonomy, which will give them control over the natural resources on their land and a greater say in how to use state funds, introducing a new type of budgetary autonomy. Indigenous autonomy has never been seriously talked about or implemented anywhere in the world, and that Bolivia is doing it now demonstrates a very progressive and advanced form of participatory democracy.

Since first taking office in January 2006, Morales has accelerated and expanded the country's land reform efforts through INRA, the national Institute of Agrarian Reform granting formal collective land titles to indigenous communities, known as Tierras Comunitarias de Origen or TCOs, a process that also involves recognition of native communities and their collective legal rights. The process involves mainly the seizing and reactivation of idle lands from huge private landholdings. It is interesting and romantic to note that the agrarian efforts in Cuba were also titled INRA during the early years of the Revolution, headed by one Che Guevara.

Simultaneously with the elections, the departments of Chuquisaca, La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro and Potosí also voted for provincial autonomy.

Evo Morales has also suggested to organize and host a World Youth Summit Against Capitalism in Bolivia. Many similar summits have been held in Venezuela and promoted by Hugo Chavez. Evo said he wanted to bring together the “youth of the world", young supporters of “revolutionary processes to put an end to capitalism.”

Another important and original idea proposed by Bolivia, which Evo suggested during a recent ALBA summit, is a continental referendum on the US-Colombia Military Deal: "If the Colombian president wants his bases to be used, I say I want a referendum in South America so the people of Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina all 12 countries can decide." The possibility of US bases in Colombia is an afront and a threat not only to Venezuela, but to all the people of Latin America, and it is of crucial importance that South America as a continent unite in opposition. A continent wide referendum might be difficult to orchestrate, but it is something that has never taken place or been talked about before. Doing so would be a gigantic democratic exercise and a channel for continental integration and solidarity building. Evo, Alvaro and the MAS understand well that full political sovereignty and economic independence hinges largely on regional strength, and that their revolution is a responsibility and a mandate not only for the people of Bolivia, but also for the continent as a whole and for humanity.

But perhaps the idea that best defines Bolivia's humanist philosophy, is the proposal for the establishment of Universal Citizenship. Evo has made a statement saying that “everyone has the right to live in any part of the world, respecting the norms of each country.” Bolivia's government is working with the United Nations in support of the proposal of universal citizenship. A document circulated at the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, entitled ‘World Citizenship: A Global Ethic for Sustainable Development’, defines Universal Citizenship in part as follows: "World Citizenship begins with an acceptance of the oneness of the human family and the interconnectedness of the nations of "the earth, our home......Its hallmark is "unity in diversity." World citizenship encompasses the principles of social and economic justice, both within and between nations; non-adversarial decision making at all levels of society; equality of the sexes; racial, ethnic, national and religious harmony; and the willingness to sacrifice for the common good. Other facets of world citizenship -- including the promotion of human honor and dignity, understanding, amity, cooperation, trustworthiness, compassion and the desire to serve."

This move to install a Universal Citizenship through the UN is a recognition that we need to take this human way of thinking, this movement, internationally. Universal Citizenship would be our greatest and most symbolic tool in democratizing and humanizing the planet, embodying unity and togetherness instead of exclusiveness and divisions. We are one together and we must all work together; a necessary first step is a message and a contract recognizing that we are all bound by blood and love. This is a reminder that we cannot allow human beings to be moved or displaced forcefully like money or commodities, that human life and dignity stand above artificial borders and arbitrary hierarchy laws.

Bolivia's leaders and thinkers are proposing ideas and discussing things that were almost unimaginable even ten years ago, ideas that have never been talked about before now. Although it has not yet fully reached mainstream discourse, it is fact that with ideas being born and developing such as participatory democracy, collective community management and budgeting, cooperatives, fair trade, genuine sustainable energy of all kinds, renewable alternative fuels, and sustainable housing and architecture, we have the political, economic, technological, and environmental infrastructure of the future in place and ready for the taking, standing and ready to be implemented. With its cultural Revolution successfully moving forward, and with ideas such as continent-wide referendums, Climate Justice, respect and implementation of the reciprocal ecological balance and exchange between mother earth and human life, living well instead of living better, Indigenous Self-Actualization, and Universal Citizenship Bolivia has established the socio-political, social, and ideological framework of the future.

When I think of Bolivia I think of all these beautiful and colorful ideas. This collective thread which has been weaved by the people of Bolivia is like a paradigm mosaic of humanity's most profound and righteous ideas and spirituality. Because of these progressive, future-leaning, sustainable, and humanistic ideas, Evo Morales, Alvaro Linera, and the MAS party are international leaders in political and conscious maturity, and examples for the rest of the world to follow. They are laying the ideological foundations which have the power to effectively change the world, in solidifying the message that another world is in fact possible.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Few Fun Words from Evo

This is not new but I stumbled upon it again. Something he said at the VII ALBA summit sometime in April of this year, 2009.

“Cuba was expelled for being Leninist, Marxist, communist. I want to say to the members of the OAS, here, I want to declare myself Marxist, Leninist, communist, socialist and now let them expel me, I want them to expel me from the OAS, it is unbelievable that for being Marxist Leninist one can be expelled from the OAS” - Evo.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Day 6


Day 6 was somewhat of a time of reflection for me. After a well deserved victory I spent my time mainly relaxing, writing, and taking in La Paz. It is interesting to remark how despite how calm and harmonious La Paz really is, the city never rests, and rallies or some sort of manifestation is almost a daily occurrence.

On Monday I ran into a student rally on the Mariscal from the U.M.S.A, the University of San Andres, from the faculty of Comunicacion-Social, protesting the increasingly corrupt, greedy, and unjust policies of the right-wing administration.
On day 6 and 7 the Plaza San Francisco was closed to pedestrian traffic, with the sole purpose of keeping out the vendors of the Feria de Navidad. The move was an extension of the regressive municipal policy I wrote about earlier in Day 1, probably anticipating that the feria campaign of MAS supporters would be emboldened by the previous day election victory. As it stands currently on day 7, and two days removed from election day, the Plaza remains sealed off by the G.M.L.P, the guardia municipal de La Paz.

Te Voy a Extranar La Paz - Day 7

Rain is falling tuesday afternoon, and you can hear its thousands of drops hitting the plastic roof, nature's song, perfect conditions for writing. I am very at peace with the rain, I love to sleep with it, I love to write with its company, I love to run around in it.

I decided not to go to Tupac Katari University today after planning on it. Truthfully, I was lonely and lacked motivation to go at it alone; we are all social creatures, had I had a companero to go with I would have been all for it. But, I cannot use that as an excuse. It is important to test our own ambitions and consistency, and to challenge ourselves and our level of dedication. I am not afraid, although sometimes slightly ashamed, to expose my psychology as an activist, to hold myself responsible and accountable for my actions and commitments, or lack thereof; sometimes my resolve is legitimate, sometimes it is insufficient. Perhaps when I can stop asking myself these questions, I can then genuinely call myself a Revolutionary and not simply an activist.

This trip for me has been revelatory in that its turned into, or reverted to, somewhat of a psyche battle between the introvert revolutionary writer, and the extravert revolutionary activist. I'd say that 55 % of the time my character compels me to be a writer, and the rest of the time I absolutely need to be a social and hands on creature. I am going to keep analysing and studying this for myself, and for the benefit of the subject in general, the psychology of the young activist. I can also say that 26 is the last year I'll call myself a YOUNG activist; after 26 I am a 'adult' activist, and I can no longer use young as an excuse. The apologetic logic of 'I still have time, I'll get there', should no longer suffice.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 7-Bolivia Reaches Out


I got in touch with Yandira late afternoon to at least exchange emails, and she informed me that Raul, Sarah, and Christian included, were all getting together for a despedida, going away gathering, so naturally I agreed to join.

By that point it was already around 6, and having written all afternoon I still had to send out some contact emails, call Jules, and get some food, which gave me just enough time to meet Yandira at 9:30 at the Libro Plaza Murillo. So everything worked out well, I would go meet everyone for talks and drinks, and then head just on time to pack my things and talk with Franz before heading to El Alto for my temporary goodbye to La Paz.

It was a great night of fun, meaningful solidarity, and the beginnings and nurturing of strong friendships. I met Yandira and we had a good talk as always and headed to meet the group where Raul, Sarah and Christian were finishing up a radio interview on the state radio station. We had loose conversations on national identities, and on the one question everyone was trying to answer perfectly; "Que es un Boliviano?"

Later on at the dance bar we all chatted about decentralization and departmental, municipal, and Indigenous autonomy; that in certain cases it could prove divisive and encourage separatism rather then autonomy through unity and solidarity. Raul explained to me that in this current context in Bolivia, autonomy if voted for is granted, but under certain guidelines, or more accurately, within a national framework. My concern was not so much with potential divisions being created, but with the management of natural resources and industry, and the budgeting and redistribution of wealth. In my opinion, autonomy should be within a framework for these reasons also.

Yandira is an administrater/investigator-reporter for I.N.R.A, The National Institute of Agrarian Reform, and Patty administers microfinance projects for small farmers and businesses in the department of Pando. As a going away present Patty and Yandira put together packages for all of us including books, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, CDs, and a message that read:

"Porque eres parte de nuestro proceso, y has marcado nuestra existencia, gracias. Recuerda que esto es posible gracias a Evo, vives en nuestro corazon y en este pais que ahora es tuyo tambien. Yandira y Patricia. Hasta la Victoria Siempre!! Jallalla Bolivia, libre, digna y soberana". Which in english translates into :" You are now a part of our process, and you have marked our existence, thank you. Remember that all this is possible thanks to Evo, you live in our hearts and in our country which is now also yours."

This speaks volumes about the love, generosity, hospitality, and profound human understanding of the Bolivian People. In a truly positive way, I was deeply emotionally affected by this message, and in a small way it changed my forever. It showed me that the Bolivian people love you, and appreciate you no matter how small your gestures, and really want everyone to feel welcome and included in their immense human project. This made me realize that I could never forget the Bolivian people, and that because of their monumental efforts, sacrifices, and dedication to humanity, I owe it to Bolivia to go back again to embrace this great community as soon as I can. This gesture was significant because it is not something that I went out and looked for, it is something that reached out for me. Bolivia is an inclusive thinking and inclusive reaching Revolution.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Flag Breakdown

Bolivian Flag: The official national flag of Bolivia. Tricolor red, yellow, and green, with its coat of arms in the center.

The MAS Party Flag: The flag of the indigenous fueled MAS party, Movimiento Al Socialismo, or in English Movement To Socialism. Predominantly strong blue with vertical black and white stripes on each end.

The Whipala: The indigenous symbol flag, mainly of the Aymara, and Quechua. Square shaped with 49 checkered smaller squares laterally lined of yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, green, and white.

The MASpala: The created combined MAS flag with a smaller Whipala placed in the middle.

The WhipaMAS: The combined creation of the Whipala patterned with MAS blue, black, and white instead of the traditional multicolours.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Las Elecciones - Day 5


At 7:15 am the streets are almost deserted, vehicular traffic is prohibited today, with only a few exceptions, and all businesses closed. The only action is pedestrians on their way to vote, and a few dispersed street vendors. Leaving the hostel I linked with a Peruvian journalist and we went off to the national electoral court where the election inauguration took place around 8 am; we missed it by a hair. However, we did get to the vice president's home on time to catch him returning and snapped a few pictures.

The atmosphere is very calm, joyful, and relaxed. I've spoken to a few voters on the street, all of them in jovial moods, most of them of course have voted MAS; I ran into only one gentleman, journalist for La Razon opposition newspaper, who did not.


I was blessed in solidarity to meet a score of Latin American journalists in front of the Alvaro residence; Indigenists, socialists, and revolutionaries, clearcut MAS supporters, two more Peruvians, one of which wearing a t-shirt that says "No se vende la Selva!", shout out to Bagua, two amazing Argentinians, and one Chilean. The Peruvian's t-shirt translates in English to "The Jungle is not for sale!", in reference to Alan Garcia's decision earlier in 2009 in compliance with the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement to open up the Peruvian Amazon to multinationals and unbridled exploration and exploitation. We chatted politics and strategy, exchanged contact info, pictures, hugs, and solidarity, and I went back to the centro to do a few things. I linked back up with the Chilean later to catch Alvaro voting, but have not been able to retrack the others so far.


Around 12 I ran back to the area I had been before, to the Radisson hotel this time, where the president of the national electoral court was set to give a press conference and progress report on how the day was going. He was late arriving and nothing special was going to be reported, everything was moving along normally as expected. I ran into the Chilean again and he was able to find out where Alvaro was going to be voting. The location was the Escuela Augustin Espiazu, and by the time we got there he was already inside just about to vote, our timing couldn't of been more fortunate. After he dropped his ballot a single exclamation let out "Alvarrito!", and then the crowd erupted in cheering, Alvaro, Alvaro, Alvaro! On my way out I crossed a to be Manfred voter, a lone red and yellow spring jacket in a black and blue sea of MAS supporters. Manfred Reyes is a corrupt millionaire right-wing opposition candidate on corruption charges, who had a flight booked for Miami the day after the election. But the right will not be successful, and certainly not so in the department of La Paz. Here in the city the MAS receives roughly 85 % support, in El Alto over 90 %.


Plaza Murillo, Whipalas, MASpalas, Masistas, and supporters from all over the world. Now, we wait.

Around 7 pm now, a little bit after, and I'm told that the early results are 62 % MAS, and that the final official results will come out later tonight or tomorrow, and that usually those vary from the early results only one or two points at most. So it is a significant victory, and I don't like tempting karma in saying that, even though it is an indisputable victory unless fraud is involved, but things are looking good as expected.

The way the result breaks down is that the results from the cities come in first, and those from the countryside later on. Writing on Day 7: So logically the rest of the vote coming in from the countryside would be overwhelmingly MAS support, but in the end the percentage lead only increased 1 % for a final total of 63 %. A huge win despite hopes for more, and still one of the largest genuine democratic majorities in the world today. A very hopeful and optimistic outlook, but the MAS nationally were aiming for as high as 70 % support.

The lead up to the conclusion was very quiet, all day the streets were relatively empty, but by 6 pm about 5,000 had amassed in the Plaza Murillo. Young and old alike, some right in the middle of the mass dancing and chanting, some on the sidelines spending time with family and friends and chatting. Flags of all kinds gracing the sky, only a few Bolivian flags, perhaps due to its ties with the not so adored past, and mainly MAS flags, Whipalas, MASpalas, and the WhipaMAS flag as glorious and proud symbols of the present, and the future.


When I returned to the plaza later on, Evo spoke of the progress made in each department, and of the "two-thirds Plurinational Assembly responsibility granted, which obliges us to accelerate the process of change. We hold a great reponsibility not only with our country, but with all of humanity...."

When I left the plaza around 11, the crowd had not slightly dispersed, which had grown to some 15,000 people at its peak. It seemed people were just starting to celebrate, but with people essentially immobilized in their neighbourhoods and districts because of the no motor vehicle restrictions on election day, the crowd did not swell to what would be expected for a Bolivian election mass MAS victory.

The MAS strongly held their ground or made significant progress all over the country, notably winning the departments of Chuqisaca and Tarija for the first time, and gaining senators in Beni, Pando, and two in the opposite bastion of Santa Cruz for the first time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

El Alto...Presente! - Day 2


Only my second day in Bolivia and I was in line to see the greatest political manifestation of my life.

It is almost impossible to tell when there are that many people, but there must have been close to, if not more than one million people at the event. It was the closing event of Evo and Alvaro's electoral campaign in Ceja in El Alto. El Alto is probably the strongest bastion of support for the MAS in all of Bolivia, and symbolically is one of the highest spots in the country. In La Paz alone there are one million people, in El Alto there are around 750,000, then to be included are supporters who came in from all over the country, and hundreds or thousands of international observers, journalists, and supporters. It was such a sprawling area with massive clusters of people everywhere; the phenomenon that is the Bolivian Revolution. Together they could have knocked down a mountain or dug a hole through the center of the earth.

Literally everyone was there; organizations, neighbourhood councils, unions, federations, students, campesinos, miners, and social movements of all sorts. It is difficult to even know where to begin, thinking back on what we were surrounded with and considering the magnitude of it. I have never even fathomed a mobilization one million people in the same space at the same time, so writing about it and describing it can not do justice to actually seeing it and living it. I do not wish to be short-sighted in comparing this situation to the country where I reside, but in Canada for a rally or a protest, a gathering of 5,000 people would be considered massive, so to witness a seven digit convergence is something that is literally life-changing. As a solidarity activist for Latin America, I have an unshakable belief in this colossal continental movement, in its capacity for real change and to be the light, the example, and the solution for humanity, but always observing the situation from afar can sometimes cause you to unintentionally and unconsciously begin to take the dynamic for granted, or to lose touch with it. If there were ever any doubts about these movements, and this Revolution, and by extension humanity's potential, one million people will quickly erase those doubts in one very sobering and vivid flash of certainty.

So we arrived in Ceja, in El Alto where the event was taking place, already a lot of buzz, a lot of people, and with the Evo copter circling above. The giant Che statue made by the people from thousands of metallic objects gracing the background, emblematic to the militancy of the community of El Alto. The main ceremonies still a couple of hours away, but the turnout has already reached its peak. So we made our way around the mass, an interesting task at this point for the five of us to stick together amidst the sea of people, Raul, Christiasn and I had met up with two Bolivian friends Lilian and Janette, and challenging for us to manage to take pictures meanwhile, especially Christian with his elaborate video equipment. But, we were received extremely well, and as supporting revolutionary journalists we were given almost the royal treatment as many people were attention seeking and the majority definitely not camera shy. We were fortunate to be able to get lots of amazing shots. Although we stopped a little bit here and there, we moved through the crowd fairly quickly. People were big on displays of solidarity and handshakes, and seemed very happy to receive supporters from where not a lot of supporters come from, embracing their people and supporting the Revolution. For me these were very touching and crystallizing moments.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Whats El Alto?? - Day 1


My first few hours in La Paz are strange. I immediately start feeling the altitude as soon as I step off the collectivo. I instinctively start walking toward the absolute center, Plaza Murillo, which is always a good reference point regradless of whether or not it yields an immediate return. I soon realize that there are no hostels in the area so I start to ask questions. The first lady I ask sends me exactly where I need to be, and after a papaya smoothie on the street I find a great hostel without problems.


So my first few hours are spent on taking care of the necessities. I was feeling sluggish and groggy, the fatigue and the altitude got to me, and although I finished everything that needed to be done, by 3:30 I could barely stand or keep my eyes open.

Trials only a few hours into my first day, at this point I was light-headed, zoned-out, exhausted, significant headache, incapable of anything beyond basic thought, and disappointed that I had to go to bed mid afternoon on my first day.


The rest did me wonders, wanting to sleep an hour and a half I ended up sleeping three, and by the time I woke up I was definitely ready to go. I headed next door to the vegetarian place and they were finishing up, so I was short on options and they were short on patience. The way this place works is cafeteria style, you pay at the front and they give you tickets, fichas en espanol, and then you bring your tickets to the back seating area and they feed you there. Normally someone takes your tickets and brings the meal to your table, but since their working day was winding down, you had to go to the closed kitchcen window and knock, hand over your tickets to the person on the other side, and they hand you your food through the window. No one told me this, so I sat at my table for a while not knowing what to do, feeling like an alien, until finally somone helped me. The meal I was served was rice with a mixed concoction which included egg (I dont eat eggs anymore either), which is technically vegetarian, but I wasn't going to leave the mealk at this point, I had to eat something. The mix also had something that looked like soymeal, but it seemed like meat, and I seemed intent on convincing myself that it was. I wasn't comfortable with what I was eating, and I felt helpless.

Ok, I know what you're thinking, I'm making La Paz sound so far like its a horrible place, but its actually an incredible and beautiful city, I just had, as Raul later wrote in one of his emails, a typical first day. But it does get a lot better before day's end.

At this point, I start walking around, not really knowing where I'm going, and I find theres a hunger strike happening in the Plaza San Francisco. I start talking to an indigenous lady handing out flyers and she explains to me that the hunger strike is to protest a municipal policy, and specifically the mayor Juan del Granado who has put in place a law which is word to the christmas street vendors. Essentially what they are trying to do is to prevent the street vendors of the Feria de Navidad from setting up shop in their traditional stomping grounds in the Plaza San Francisco. These vendors take their positions inside the plaza only during the month of December, and the mayor is saying they are an eyesore, and is trying to move them to a new undesirable location which will not be good for business. Whats more, the vendors of the feria have issue with the fact that the amount they are taxed with licensing will remain the same despite the almost certain loss of revenue. The mayor is also claiming he wants to remove vendors from the streets alltogether, a ridiculous and absurd proposal which would crush La Paz's informal economy and create massive unemployment. This debate may come to the fore in the new year, and if the municipality tries to take action it will certainly provoke another resistance campaign from the vendors.

From the plaza I moved on to the Mariscal Santa Cruz where a small rally was taking place for the same campaign. Spoke briefly to a companero who gave me some good information, snapped some pictures of the giant majestic tricolour draping the street, and then I crossed over to fire off a quick email to Raul, and to chat with my beautiful incredible girl. I also found out about the closing event of the MAS electoral campaign to take place in El Alto the following day.

When I got back to the hostel I met Franz, the night employee, who not surprisingly is a fervent MAS supporter, and asked him for details on the event. We talked politics for an hour, and I made my first Bolivian friend and connection.


After that I finally felt a much needed sense of purpose, and belonging. Unity and togetherness are extremely important in molding and complementing the mentality of the young activist-revolutionary. The psychology of the young activist is a theme that I will explore more in depth in the future.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Toronto to Miami to La Paz - Day 0


I'm excited as I get on my flight in Toronto, the spanish speaking begins already. I open up an article on understanding class analysis in the New Left Review and we soar to 38,000 feet.

After only slightly more than an hour of sleep I wake up to that groggy, confused flight sensation, and under me is a very comfortable looking cloud carpet which changes patterns every four minutes. I realize we're getting close to Miami. I snap a few pictures and stare in delight as I regain myself, then I reopen the review and finish the article. We begin our descent, and perhaps in symbolic Miami dread, my ears pressurize, pop, and bloc all the way down. I say dread because Miami's reality is not a pleasant one; a perfect example of U.S. third world formula and false democracy, and city of drugs, crime, prostitution, and poverty. Miami is also disgraceful home to a few thousand Latin American right-wing political exiles, corrupt politicians, businessmen, landowners, millionaires, terrorists, and human rights abusers of all sorts who've been regurgitated and expelled by the people of their own countries. I have 5 1/5 hours to wait at the airport, but I don't even want to go into the city.

Even though I dislike waiting in airports, it always amuses me to look and laugh at the useless, faceless, generic, robotic businessmen with their cellphones and bluetooth, all having the exact same conversations over and over again. A well trained colony of sterile, oblivious subjects.

From Miami to El Alto, where La Paz's international airport is located, I sleep for most of the journey. The only thing noteworthy about the flight is meal time when I'm offered either beef or chicken, so naturally I ask for the vegetarian option and I'm informed that I had to order it ahead of time, when, where, and how, however, nothing more is specified to me. The capitalist world doesn't care about vegetarians, partly because it goes against traditional and conservative values, and partly because it questions the nature of the system and is not good for business. In Bolivia, for example, where it is even more difficult to find people who don't eat meat, there happened to be a vegetarian restaurant right next to my hostel.

I wake up to the sunrise which indicates I am nearing my destination, and I look out the window and see mountains rising above the clouds, the Andean arteries to the heart. Bolivia.