It was a martial day in La Paz on Easter Sunday, in every sense of the word, particularly outside my window in Plaza Avaroa. It was a day of strange contrasts and serendipitous conjunctions.
I had watched them bring the remains of Eduardo Avaroa the night before, placing them on the covered table in front of his statue, lifting himself off the ground, gun in hand, about to die defiantly in a hail of Chilean bullets 129 years ago. It was the last battle of the War of the Pacific, when Bolivia lost its coastal territory, a sore spot marked ever since on March 23, Dia del Mar.
My dia began before I would have like it to when loud marching bands and military troops of all stripes converged on the plaza from all directions at 8;30 am, just three hours after I went to bed. The popular Bolivian band Atajo put on a fantastic show at Equinoccio that had me dancing and drinking until they were done. But aye carumba, with just a few hours sleep I was witnessing what seemed like an invasion, or at least the Bolivian equivilent of the Russian May Day, with endless thousands of troops on display, singing, marching, and beating their drums.
The plaza filled with dignitaries including President Evo Morales, who spoke after he cannons rattled the air with a 21-gun salute or so, shortly before 11 am. Evo talked about the power of the pueblos, a word that means people but also far more since he became the first indiginous president in South American history. And he talked about the need to reclaim the coast from Chile, a task in which he announced negotiations had commenced. And he referenced comments make by Pope Benedict about the need for all countries in the world to better protect human rights and see to the needs of the poor.
It really appeared that Bolivia is on to something, but I couldn’t help but be a bit unsettled by the association of such ideals with the display of miliary might. Or perhaps it was just the lack of sleep.
P.S. I’m now in Cochabamba and will have a post on that once I return to La Paz, on Thursday or Friday.