Three days after the general elections in Bolivia, I was walking between the Centro Misionero Maryknoll in America Latina and my house. There wasn’t a car to be encountered on the nearly 3 kilometer (1.8 mile) walk, except for the occasional ambulance, police car, and motorcycles that are the only motorized vehicles able to navigate the blockades. On that walk, and on another a short time later I had occasion to talk with those at a couple of the blockades – both women.
“y esto es….” “esto es indefinido,” she said; finishing my question. This strike is indefinite.
After 11 days of national civic strike the major newspaper in Cochabamba, Los Tiempos, published a summary of the strike’s first 11 days. You may read my translation of that article here; and the original (with pictures) here.
Gringo finally gathers thoughts; finishes/continues blog post.
11/30/2019 – OSSINING, NEW YORK:
The last post began with one of my most-hated phrases, and I’m going to eat those words again. God draws straight, with crooked lines. When I began writing, and posted, the previous post, I was actually in Lima, Peru. I suppose my intention was that my movement there would be built up to in the telling of events. Well, I’ll try to condense that now; lesson learned: ALWAYS jot down thoughts and begin writing, otherwise so much will happen in the coming days that will make your initial post incredibly hard to finish!
Reading the document above that I translated from an article in Cochabamba’s local paper, Los Tiempos, will give you a good flavor for what happened while there that made me opt to go to Peru.
The short version: continued strike that prevented me from working in my ministries, threat of violent protests every few days – and that actually did come to pass on Oct. 29, rising blood pressure and preoccupation with an unknown situation, and my initial intention to take a retreat and vacation in December: the unrest & growing anxiety coupled with the last realization led me to say: ‘why not take a retreat now?’
And so it was that on November 2, I left for Lima, Peru. What I did NOT know at the time, was that would turn into a journey to the United States to check in at Maryknoll, NY!
There has been lots swimming around and passing through my head the last four or so weeks. How difficult will it be to return to mission after a one-month (and more or less unplanned) hiatus? How do I return to a country in some ways more divided than when I left – when I was just starting to know and feel known enough to breach questions of some difficulty, such as politics and identity? How best to support and ‘explain’ (for lack of a better word), as a foreigner, current lived history in Bolivia without betraying the experience of Bolivians? What does it really mean to “walk with the poor,” when even the seeming best candidate option for that, politically speaking, has grown increasingly despotic in recent years?
That’s an entre into the next post(s). For now, here is a list of English articles that I posted on Facebook.
*NB: One thing I’ve learned anew in this moment in history is how biased the news gets. As English-language articles, the writers are removed from aspects of Bolivian reality that are essential to at least be aware of, in order to understand the current conflict. So that’s all to say, read with a grain of salt. And of course, my connecting these articles to this post does not imply my total assent & agreement to the writers’ point of view. But I do at least think they’re on to something! I’ve listed the dates so that you add that to the perspective…events and circumstances changed quickly, so that’s important.
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns (11/27/19):
Bolivia: Crisis and Solidarity (article includes link to MOGC’s official statement on the Bolivian political crisis)
Bolivia: Four Provocations for the International Left
Toward Freedom (11/11/19):
Bolivia: The Extreme Right Takes Advantage of a Popular Uprising
Associated Press via Chicago Tribune (11/14/19):
Latin America Looks Neither Left nor Right
Traveling Amazon Blog (11/12/19):
What I learned from living inside the Bolivian revolution
The Conversation (11/12/19):
Bolivia in Crisis: how Evo Morales was Forced Out
The New York Times (11/12/19):
Bolivia Crisis Shows the Blurry Line Between Coup and Uprising
Bolivia in Crisis: Don’t Mistake a Public Uprising for a Coup
And the author’s follow-up (11/18/19),
Bolivia in Meltdown
The Washington Post (11/11/19):
Bolivia is in Danger of Slipping into Anarchy. It’s Evo Morales’s fault.
The Atlantic (11/11/19):
Evo Morales Finally Went Too Far for Bolivia