Monday, August 10, 2009

There's No Place Like (a new) Home...

"La Union es La Fuerza"
(Unity is Strength)
-Bolivian national motto

I'm sure you all want to know a bit more about where I am. Actually, that's not true. I'm sure it's all the same to many of you and a small handful (mom) would like a short essay. So here are a few facts you're welcome to glance at if you're curious.

Bolivia is one of two landlocked countries in South America. It's East of Chile and Peru and North of Argentina. It's a very diverse country because they have such a large indigenous population compared to other countries. About half of the country is Amerindian, a third is Mestizo, and the remainder are white (Spanish, American, German, etc). This not only creates a wonderfully rich culture, it also means that there are over 35 native languages in addition to the main language (Spanish) spoken around the country. In addition to being one of the most diverse countries in South America, it is also one of the poorest. About two thirds of the population (which is around 9,100,000) is below the poverty level.

Politically speaking, Bolivia has experienced quite a bit of unrest over the course of its history. Between winning independence from Spain in 1825 and beginning a new era of relative stability in 1981, Bolivia averaged a change of government about once every ten months (that's 193 coups d'etat for anyone who's counting). Don't worry though, Bolivia has transitioned comparatively peacefully since then. Current socialist president Juan Evo Morales Ayma, who took office in 2006, is from the indigenous Aymaras, thus his election marks a turning from a long history of primarily white and Mestizo power in the majority native population. Morales has drawn attention in the last few years by re nationalizing natural gas and hydrocarbon production, promising to relax coca farming restrictions put in place by agreements with the United States, and beginning a new constitution which will empower the indigenous majority. These actions, particularly the latter, have been met on occasion with rioting.

So that's the brief rundown. Or at least everything that will make my mother sweat. Despite it's political and economic struggles, Bolivia is a beautiful country enlivened by an active culture and wonderful people. Don't you worry.

More about Cochabamba in particular to come. And yes...most of this is straight out of Wikipedia.

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