Tuesday, September 4, 2012

More Fun in La Paz - Tear Gas is Uncomfortable

Hello again from La Paz, Bolivia. The day before I wrote the Peru by the numbers, we had actually gone to the San Francisco church here in La Paz. We were given a guided tour of the facilities and got to see the choir area, and the large arrray of bells in the bell tower. There is also an excellent view of the city from the top of the church.

Additionally there was something of a law enforcement/public services fair going on. There are at least six or seven different arms of law enforcement here in La Paz and they were all present talking to the citizenry, taking pictures with grenade launchers, giving brief demonstrations, etc. Sarah was able to have her picture taken with a "police dog."

Sunday was a national pedestrian day, basically meaning that the city was closed to vehicular traffic, and the streets were eerily silent and empty. Oddly enough, compared to other pedestrian/bicycling days we´ve experienced in other places, La Paz didn´t seem to really take advantage of it. Although there were a few kids in the streets and here and there we saw people walking or biking, the geography of the city makes it hard to walk a lot since it is so steep on all sides. It seemed to us that the pedestrian day was more of an inconvenience for most people than anything else. That said, we had plans for Sunday night, we were going to see some Lucha Libre. Here, the female luchadoras are called cholitas, which is a modern take on what at one point was a derogatory term for the local indigenous people, and then became a term of pride over time (has nothing to do with a Mexican cholo or chola). We saw seven matches in total and the locals really got into the emotion of it all. We were slightly delayed in arriving as normally the matches begin at 4:30, and the pedestrian day ended at 5:00, however the organizers took this into consideration and began a bit later, since it was too far for people to walk from the city. For those of you who don´t know, lucha libre is professional wrestling. This lucha libre took place in a small gym complex in El Alto, which is a poor suburb of La Paz, where the city sprawls out of the valley and into the flatland. The fights were complete with drama, interference from the referee and announcers, and drunken fans throwing popcorn and who knows what else into the squared circle. There were matches between men, matches between women, and coed matches, which seemed a bit unfair, but the cholitas garnered the support of the crowd. Chairs were smashed into heads, chalkdust thrown into eyes, all the same tricks you see on TV in America. In the end, it was a lot of fun, and I am trying to convince Sarah to stay until next Sunday so we can do it again.

Yesterday, we took it easy, paid our travel agent for our trip to the Salar de Uyuni coming up in a few weeks, and bought some gloves, something which we have been lacking in our travels. We also discovered an excellent new dinner which was hidden right in front of our noses. Across the street from our Bed & Breakfast, at night ladies set up small carts and sell sandwiches and hot dogs. Little did we know that they sell steak sandwiches! Turns out the steak sandwiches are quite delicious and only 6.50 Bs, or a little less than a dollar. They are also kind enough to keep a fryer going with french fries which are generously salted. Anyways, I think I know what we will be doing for dinner tonight before we get our free beer from the hotel.

Today we went to four musuems that share a common ticket and are all on the same street. We saw some pre-Incan gold and silver, lots of clothes from Bolivians over the past few hundred years, as well as a lot of maps and memorabilia from the war with Chile over Bolivia´s old maritime border. Based on what we saw in the musuem it would appear that Bolivia is none too thrilled with the fact that they are now landlocked. We also saw the home of a past president of Bolivia. All the musuems were fairly small, but they were in a pretty good state of repair considering that it only cost 4 Bs for a ticket that was good for all 4 musuems, and for Bolivians it is even cheaper. We went back to our tucumana lady for lunch, the tucumanas were delicious as always, and then we started climbing back up to our hotel. We met a couple who is also staying at our hotel when we were passing through the San Francisco Park and explained to us that there had been some sort of march going on down the main street and had just turned off of it. As we were talking we heard some loud explosions which sounded like standard fare fireworks for this part of the world, but they told us that the police were tear-gassing the marchers. Turns out they were right, as we climbed up the hill, we could smell it in bits and pieces as the wind blew it our way. So, needless to say, our sinuses are slightly burned and very clean right now. Not to worry, we will stay safe, and keep in touch!!

1 comment:

  1. Tear gas was fun 52 years ago in boot camp--I remember it well...Jerry