April 05, 2010
Decompressing in Copacabana
No destination today, just hanging out in Copacabana, by the shores of Titicaca (thanks Henry). I am in what is most likely the best hotel in town, good internet, lotsa international tourists (mostly Europeans), a great view (the above photo was taken from my window), all for 300 Bolivianos, or $43 or thereabouts.
If you have been following this blog, I am sure you will be relieved to hear that President Morales' MAS party probably elected 6 Gobiernos, an increase of 2, which will consolidate the power of the MAS. No riots or other excitement, but there was lightning last night.
President Morales, who was re-elected last December (yesterday's were regional or municipal elections), is Bolivia's first indigenous president. I believe that besides Bolivia, only Peru has elected an Indigeno president (the proper term, indian or indio is considered pejorative). Most Bolivians are Indigeno, and have maintained a traditional culture that is very distinctive. The women especially as you can see.
I don't have the whole picture yet, but it is clear that women have an important role in the culture and the society.
So far in Bolivia I have seen very little enterprise other than the micro variety, except the tourist and travel-transportation industries, which is dominated by the small enterprise. Stuff is sold from stalls or very small stores. It is a crap shoot to find what you want or need. There is no shortage of handicrafts for sale wherever I go. The stalls are mostly run by Indigeno women. I am not sure what the men do, other than drive buses, trucks, taxis, pedicabs and mopeds. Actually I have seen them work the fields, but usually outnumbered by women. The non Indigeno (e.g. 'western' style) culture is pretty old school, with the men being the managers and women their subordinates.
Note the distinctive triangular profile of the Indigeno ladies clothing. This style is very ancient. It can be seen in locally produced paintings and statues, especially those of the Virgen (Virgin Mary). A guide in a museum in Lima explained that before the Conquistadors arrived there was a female earth mother goddess that was very important to the Indigenos. An image of the Virgen was carved by a local Indigeno and placed in Copacabana. Soon after miracles started occurring. The Virgen of Copacabana is the patron saint of Bolivia, and is housed here in Copacabana's basilica.
I spent the morning wandering around to see what I could see. I got some great photos, and feel better about carrying on. I am only a few days from Chile, and I will head there next, as they have plenty of KTM dealers. It seems I may have blown a fork seal while conducting an experiment on how fast I could traverse a speed bump.
more on Picasa.