Writing in Bolivian Dictatorship

I never been interested in politics, neither being active in it. Being Bolivian, I’m surrounded by latin-american literature influenced mostly by our turbulent political history. This is social literature that is marked mostly by conflicts and our disastrous governments. I didn’t understand well the impact of these events in literature until the last 3 weeks in my country. Social and political environment can definitely influence your writing soul.

To be honest, I didn’t write/edit a single word in these weeks. For those who haven’t heard it, we were living under dictator Evo Morales’ regime. He has changed the constitution to perpetuate into power. A couple of years ago, he did a referendum to ask Bolivians if we wanted him to run again for presidency, we voted “NO”. We’d had enough of this government that sympathized too much with Venezuelan and Cuban counterparts. However, the tyrant didn’t accept the referendum results and he searched his illegal way to run for presidency for a fourth time.

A bit more than three weeks ago, he blatantly committed fraud to forge his win in these elections. The people felt insulted and angered. We protested and took the streets, not knowing how else to protest. We suffered 3 weeks of attacks from delinquent groups that supported his regime of terror. These groups invaded our cities, burned whatever they saw, including houses. People were beaten to death with bats, sticks and stones. The police had instructions to not go out, leaving us to our own fate. They were complying with “orders” from above.

Finally, after weeks, the police couldn’t take anymore our suffering and pleas for help and riots started to happen into their own units. When the OAS’s audits revealed the fraud, the tyrant called for “new elections”. But we were no dumb. That wasn’t enough. He was a criminal. He had to go. When the army didn’t support him, he finally resigned and ran away.

Just when there was a brief air or relief, Morales’ groups attacked with more force. The police was now on our side but it wasn’t enough. People organized themselves to help defend neighborhoods. But we could still hear the dynamite explosions, people crying for help. The day following Evo Morales resignation was the darkest one of these weeks. I will never forget the days with warnings to turn the lights off, sirens with alarms to let you know that the hordes of delinquents were close to your home. Morales had ensured to feed these people with hate and anger all these years. They just wanted to destroy everything on their way, burn houses, business, and beat to hell whoever they found. When the police was surpassed by these hordes, we begged the army to step in. It wasn’t until they decided to step in that we had some relief.

It still hurts to think that this man tried to take advantage of the poorest segment of the population, the indigenous, that because of their lack of access to information were brainwashed with ideas of racism and division. A corrupt network of leaders ensured the poorest ones joined these delinquents groups, threatening them to take away their lands and resources if they didn’t comply.

When I see Tweets from people abroad, the international community, claiming this was a Coup, I get angered. Only Bolivians know what we went through. Through this week, we heard the tyrant’s speeches mocking us, telling us he would siege cities to see if we could withstand it, mocking from our protests and blockades, calling “his people” to defend him.

Days are showing a bit better now. We still have a long way to fight and hordes will keep coming in protest for the tyrant’s exile. They will never accept that we, the people, won. The dictator is gone. And even though he threatens to come back, we’ve learned a lot. We learned that unity is strength. Our patriotism and faith has grown. We love our country more than ever and we embrace our multiculturality, our diversity across all races, colors, and beliefs.

When I think why I didn’t write in this time, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t find the head to do it. I admire those writers that were able to write in moments of political convulsion where your own human rights are at risk.

I started to write today. It felt weird to go back to my science fiction novel when my feelings are still boiling inside. But I have to go back. I won’t let this tyrant absorb more days of my life. And for the first time ever, I definitely understand the impulse to write social literature. The writer I was weeks ago will always be marked by this experience.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Celebrating Christmas in the middle of the Heat

When people think of Christmas, they usually imagine a Snowy postcard image, with Reindeers, snowmen, and people wearing winter clothes. Even if you look for Christmas clothes, you’ll find they are always sweaters – like the infamous ugly Christmas sweater -, scarfs, beanies, etc. It is not as you can find tank tops or flip flops with Christmassy designs.

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As you already know, there is a South hemisphere that will have a very sunny and in-the-middle of summer Christmas. This geolocalization does not ruin Christmas for us. We still pretend to put fake snow around our trees and Christmas decorations. There are still polyethylene foam snowmen decorating the main squares and parks of the city.

However, this Holiday Season has been different in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The city where I live. We’ve experienced one of the worst droughts ever. And water shortage has been the biggest concern of our lives. I haven’t met a person who doesn’t literally pray and wish for rain. It has indeed rained a couple of times this month, but it has not been enough. Valleys and rivers are drying. Wild animals and crops are dying as a consequence. The local government is trying to pull off a couple of solutions, but nobody knows if these projects (dams and tunnels built to bring water from other places) will be sustainable solutions in the long term. We need the rain. Global warming is a fact, and we’re experimenting the consequences.

For Cochabambinos – people from my city – appreciating this resource has become part of our lives. We’ve learned the lesson. We try to save as much as we can and spend as less as possible. I take showers as fast as possible. I don’t let water be wasted. I only wash the necessary clothes and only when needed.  Most Cochabambinos cannot bear seeing people wasting water: like car washers that don’t recycle water or other unneeded uses of water.

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I had relatives visiting a couple of weeks:  my aunt and my uncle, both from Santa Cruz, a city in Bolivia that has no problems with water. Although, they are aware of the shortage of water in this city, their behavior towards water is different from ours. You don’t wash a dish in several minutes, you do it fast. If you buy fruit, you don’t clean them one by one, you save water from the tap by washing them all at once. Of course, it is not their fault, but my aunt and uncle will be far from understanding the meaning of saving water, unless they move over here.

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Unfortunately, you learn to appreciate a natural resource only when there is a lack or shortage of it. When probably it is too late. And similar to my aunt and uncle who only live a city away from mine, other people in the world won’t be able to understand this problem until they experiment it. Whoever that does not pay attention to Climate change is really lost.

This is Christmas. It is nice. But if it were raining, it would be the best Christmas ever for me.