Street Life

One of the defining characteristics of life in Bolivia is the way it is lived to a large degree outside. I guess this is a trait of a hot climate and a legacy of Spanish cultural influence that has bequeathed every town in the country with at least one plaza where people congregate to meet friends, promenade or simply people watch.

The outdoor life goes further than this though. There are a multitude of street vendors selling everything from freshly squeezed orange juice, weavings, shoe shines, plastic bags full of drinks or food and repairs of just about every type imaginable; smooching students inhabit street corners and plaza benches; and campesinos wait on the pavement outside churches in the hope of charity.

This being Bolivia one of the more obvious outdoor activities is the regular ‘bloqueos’ or strikes. These occur with a frequency unheard of in any other country in the world as far as I can tell, and they bring thousands of people onto the streets – mainly because transport strikes are quite common.

Coming from a cold, wet, northern country I love the outside lifestyle of Bolivia, it certainly means there is rarely a shortage of things to distract and entertain…

Street vendor repairing shoes, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Street vendor repairing shoes, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Orange juice vendor takes a nap, Plaza 25 de Mayo, Sucre, Bolivia

Orange juice vendor takes a nap, Plaza 25 de Mayo, Sucre, Bolivia

Pigeon people, La Paz, Bolivia

Pigeon people, La Paz, Bolivia

A young girl selling jellies, Potosi, Bolivia

A young girl selling jellies, Potosi, Bolivia

Fashion shoot in the streets of Sucre, Bolivia

Fashion shoot in the streets of Sucre, Bolivia

Balloon seller, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Balloon seller, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Table removals, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Table removals, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Plaza Central, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Plaza Central, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Chorizo Festival, Sucre, Bolivia

Chorizo Festival, Sucre, Bolivia

Juice stalls in Sucre's Mercardo Central, Bolivia

Juice stalls in Sucre’s Mercardo Central, Bolivia

Balloon seller, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Balloon seller, San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Protest march, Sucre, Bolivia

Protest march, Sucre, Bolivia

Media crowd around a strike organiser, Sucre, Bolivia

Media crowd around a strike organiser, Sucre, Bolivia

Toys for sale, Potosi, Bolivia

Toys for sale, Potosi, Bolivia

Tarabuco, a real Christmas market

‘Twas the Sunday before Xmas and there was only one place to go when in need of some last minute Xmas gifts or a fascinating insight into life in rural Bolivia: Tarabuco.

The market in Tarabuco is legendary in Bolivia for its superb weavings produced by the predominately Quechua speaking indigenous population. We have several beautiful Tarabuco weavings in the house, but it is possible to find many more wondrous items to fill those Xmas stockings.

Tarabuco is a small village nestling amongst a beautiful mountainous landscape some 65km from Sucre. This alone would be reason to visit, but it is also the epicentre of the region’s famous weavings, all still done by hand on wooden looms with skills and unique designs passed down from generation-to-generation.

Tarabuco and the surrounding region is home to a unique Bolivian culture, and one that fought fiercely to retain its identity, first against the Inca empire and again against the colonising Spanish. Both empires sought to subjugate the local Chiriguano tribes, and both struggled to quash the fierce resistance of the Chiriguano. The main plaza has a gruesome statue commemorating a famous victory (one of the few) over the Spanish – complete with a heart freshly ripped from the body of a Spanish soldier.

Statue commemorating a famous victory over the Spanish, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Statue commemorating a famous victory over the Spanish, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Once you’ve recovered from the shock of that, it is time for some serious shopping…don’t forget to negotiate.

Weavings, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Weavings, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Handmade dolls in traditional costumes, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Handmade dolls in traditional costumes, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Gourds with nativity scene, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Gourds with nativity scene, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Strings of coloured sweets, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Strings of coloured sweets, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Xmas hats? Tarabuco, Bolivia

Xmas hats? Tarabuco, Bolivia

Piggy bank and animal gourds, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Piggy bank and animal gourds, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Handmade dolls wearing traditional costumes, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Handmade dolls wearing traditional costumes, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Sandals made from recycled tyres, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Sandals made from recycled tyres, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Traditional fiesta masks, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Traditional fiesta masks, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Jewellery, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Jewellery, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Weavings, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Weavings, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Llama wool, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Llama wool, Tarabuco, Bolivia

Notes from Camelid Country: A blog from Bolivia

Landscape in the Bolivian South West

Landscape in the Bolivian South West

Bolivia, land of soaring vistas and beautiful fiestas, the low Amazon Basin and the high Altiplano, the birthplace of the Inca creation myth and the sparkling ‘White City’ built with Potosi’s silver and millions of indigenous dead.

No one country in Latin America offers such diversity or such contrasts. Culturally the richest country in the region, yet also the poorest with deeply entrenched rural and urban poverty. A country unlike any other.

Woman at the weekly market in Tarabuco, Bolivia

Woman at the weekly market in Tarabuco, Bolivia

Bolivia is also home to a dizzying array of wildlife, including three wide varieties of camelids (for anyone wondering about the name of the blog): llamas, vicunas and alpacas.

Vicunas in the wild, Bolivian Altiplano, Bolivia

Vicunas in the wild, Bolivian Altiplano, Bolivia

After visiting in 2010, we decided to return to live in beautiful Sucre, volunteering with local NGOs, learning Spanish and visiting other parts of the country and region.

Fiesta in Sucre, Bolivia

Fiesta in Sucre, Bolivia

Been here a couple of weeks already, house hunting and trying to solve the mysteries of the immigration process to get our residency visa…of which more later. London seems like a long time ago already, although it will take a while to be completely immunised against the urge to have things happen when people say they’ll happen.

So raise a glass (or a bucket) of chicha to Bolivia, where, according to one immigration official, “Everything is possible, nothing is certain”. Looking forward to it already.

You know chicha has been taken when you find yourself involved in a game of pass the chicken, Sucre, Bolivia

You know chicha has been taken when you find yourself involved in a game of pass the chicken, Sucre, Bolivia