18 October 2007

Sweet, sweet Sucre

Arrived after a long, somewhat but not entirely tortuous Land Cruiser journey in Sucre, which isn't actually named after any sweeteners but the one of Simon Bolivar's fellow revolutionaries who liberated the country. Ironically, Bolivar himself didn't want Bolivia (or any other country in this part of SA) to be independent of his larger vision, but they named it after him anyway. He died broken and alone in Columbia, banned from the land of his birth, like all such heroes. Today, Sucre is the judicial capital of Bolivia, like some such thing in The Netherlands or South Africa. Protesters have recently been blockading the city, demanding the rest of the capitalary (?) functions be restored to Sucre, as well. I hope it doesn't happen while I'm here.

We basically drove on a bumpy stone and then dirt road for 12 hours to get here. Without seatbelts. Poor Katie cut her head open on a piece of metal during one of the bumpier bumps. At one point, we had to wait around several hours while bulldozers rebuilt the road, which had slid into the river in an avalanche. Matthias tried to ford the river, which was going to make me cry in the most absolute terror of my life, but relievingly, he didn't.

I never said anything about the water war in Cochabamba. Basically, the state, in cooperation with the US corporation Bechtel and the World Bank, tried to privatize the water works in the city which would have raised rates considerably. They needed the money to build a new supply tunnel, which has only recently been completed. The people protested and the privatization was halted. This happened in 1999 and was then considered a significant victory and rallying point in the so-called "anti-globalization" movement. So I have long wanted to see this city for myself. There are many sides to this story, and many opinions about the subsequent outcome, but I won't get into that. I will say that Cochabamba is not like what I thought it would be. I imagined extreme poverty, dusty roads, etc. Actually, it is nicer than just about every city I visited in Peru and could almost double for a middle-class city in America (almost is a strong word). I went to see Rush Hour 3 (awful) at a movie theater that could have been anywhere in the industrialized or attempting to look partially industrialized world. I felt like a tool and even missed Matthias' "bad boys night" at the bar, accidentally, so I regret that a bit, but sometimes you need a Hollywood pablum break, don't you?

Today, Katie and I were suckered or suckered ourselves into going to see some remarkably disappointing dinosaur footprints. After paying 10 Bolivianos to get up to the site, they unexpectedly wanted 30 B. more to get in. Like stubborn backpackers (I told you!) we refused and just looked at them from the outside. I also took a nap in the shade on the stone paving outside. That, at least, was refreshing. I will now spend the rest of the day admiring the extremely churched and UNESCO-listed core of this, the "white city" (not Minas Tirith and still not named after sugar!).

No comments: