On Saturday (Day 3 of our trip) we all (the of us plus my friend’s family) went to a nearby town called Samaipata, about 3 hours away by car. (We went there by a special taxi that charged Bs. 120 / US$15 for 4 adults and 2 kids.) We stopped a bit before Samaipata in a little private park called Las Cuevas that had a series of waterfalls. It was set among pretty mountains and bathing under waterfalls was quite a bit of fun.
I found it noteworthy that Las Cuevas was a private park. It seemed like yet another case where the private sector was providing services that I would have normally expected to be offered by the state. This came up on several occasions later. It made me remember Miguel Centeno’s “Blood and Debt” that read in one my classes last year. Centeno aims to explain the weakness of the state in “Latin America,” and thinking about Brazil (where the state is very present) his premise seemed a little strange. After Bolivia, I can sort of see what he had in mind.
Then we took a local bus to Samaipata, a small city with a surprisingly large ex-pat population (German’s running restaurants, Austrian’s running tour agencies, etc.) Our night in Samaipata and a good chunk of the next day were spoiled by an ideological conflict between our stomachs and the last night’s dinner (we suspect the water in the lemonade was to blame). We end up getting some pills in the local pharmacy (sold individually – the guy cut out exactly the number of pills we wanted) and by 3 p.m. we were ready to continue our program (well, sort of). Luckily this was the only time during this trip that we had this problem.
Note the red house in the pictures. Bolivian elections were coming up, with two main candidates being Evo Morales (the socialist leader of Bolivian coca farmers) and Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga – a “conservative” former president. (Note, of course, that Tuto could just as accurately be described as “liberal” – in the same way as The Economist.) Strangely (or perhaps cunningly), Tuto picked red as his campaign color, a star as his symbol, and “Podemos” (“we can”) as the name of this block. So, the house painted red with a white star is an example of anti-socialist propaganda, of which one could see plenty around rich Santa Cruz. As is the case with the painted house in the photo, much of the campaign followed “X con Tuto” formula, where the names (or faces) of various Podemos candidates were paired up Tuto’s. The effect was particularly amusing when you saw a sequence of nearly identical billboards: “X1 with Tuto”, “Y with Tuto”, “X with Tuto” with faces of minor politicians photoshopped together with the same photo of Tuto.
As we later moved towards the Altiplano we passed through areas roughly balanced between Tuto’s red and Evo’s blue-white-and-black. (In many cases the campaign advertising was reduced to just painting roadside stones with appropriate colors or putting up colored flags.) Closer to La Paz Evo seemed to have more support. BTW, we planned our trip to be out of Bolivia before elections, to avoid any potential complications, so we only heard the results from Peru. Evo Morales won with a clear margin, becoming Bolivia’s first indigenous (or, more politically correct, “Andino”) president.