Archive for August, 2009

I was just having a go at translating bits of the new Bolivian constitution into English, as you do, when I was struck by the lengthy and impressive inclusion of all of Bolivia’s indigenous languages, totalling 37 – which, I gather from Ned Thomas of the Mercator Institute (interesting blog here), is about the same as the number of small or minority languages spoken across the whole of Europe.

Article 5. The official languages of the State are Spanish and all the languages of indigenous and peasant First Nations and peoples, which are: Aymara, Araona, Baure, Bésiro, Canichana, Cavineño, Cayubaba, Chácobo, Chimán, Ese, Ejja, Guaraní, Guarasu’we, Guarayu, Itonama, Leco, Machajuyai-Kallawaya, Machineri, Maropa, Mojeño-Trinitario, Mojeño-Ignaciano, Moré, Mosetén, Movima, Pacawara, Puquina, Quechua, Sirionó, Tacana, Tapiete, Toromona, Uru-Chipaya, Weenhayek, Yaminawa, Yuki, Yuracaré and Zamuco.


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Pichikatero journalism

PJ O’Rourke joked in his book ‘Holidays in Hell’ that a certain hotel in Albania was highly rated by journalists for the fact that the cocaine on sale in its nightclub was no better or worse than in London or New York, and that the reception staff were amenable to disguising bar tabs as laundry bills for those on expense accounts. If only he wrote for the Guardian – more unlikely things have happened, come on – he could have put the blow on his expense account as well. It looks like Jonathan Franklin has.

Franklin’s article in the Grauniad adopts a scandalised tone to expose the world of cocaine lounges in La Paz, painting a picture of small salons of depravity filled with moneyed Euro-American tourists paying to get high. The title of the piece is ‘The world’s first cocaine lounge’, which you could say was the first indication that the hyperbole of the article doesn’t quite live up to reality. World’s first? What, really? Has Mr Franklin ever been backstage at a music or film industry awards do? Has he ever been to some of the wilder parties in Bogotá, or even L.A? Not that I have, mind, but it doesn’t take a wild leap of the imagination to deduce that discreet nightclubs where a line or two is available alongside your drinks as a main feature of the place is hardly a global novelty.

But let’s not let that get in the way of a pleasant moral-high-ground buzz. There’s a whole wrap of misinformation to get through, so let’s start chopping.

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Pobre neglected blogcito

So much to write about, and so little written! Compadrit@s, van a disculpar that I have left the t’anta wawa’s oven without a flame for so long. There was a housemove, and a concerted thesis-push involved. But there’s been plenty going on in Bolivia and even here in the UK where this last weekend, I had the pleasure of accompanying Bolivian ambassador to France, the legendary folksinger Luzmila Carpio, to a festival and conference in Wales. The El Sueño Existe festival has been held in Machynlleth, Powys every two years since 2005 and honours the life of Victor Jara, the Chilean popular singer executed in the coup of 1973. It brings together Welsh and Latin American musicians and leftists and all in all seemed a very enjoyable and thought-provoking jamboree, with some serious conference sessions counterweighing the musical celebrations. There was a lot of useful talk talked about minority language rights, revindication of colonised cultures, the right to culture and identity through language and even some more-than-verbal exchange through the medium of music. Dafydd Iwan of Welsh-nationalist party Plaid Cymru was in attendance and gave such a rousing performance of some of his self-penned Welsh-rights folksongs that I almost texted an SNP apparatchik friend advising him to teach Alex Salmond to sing – there’s something about the passion of song that transcends as well as augments political discussion. We also had an entertaining and inspiring visit to the Centre for Alternative Technology, a research and education institute that’s almost like a big clever sustainabilty theme park. Many thanks to the lovely people of Machynlleth for such a productive and peaceful stay.

Mientras tanto, in Bolivia election year is heating up! It looks like the opposition may crystallise its resistance around the candidacy of Victor Hugo Cárdenas, although at the moment the election is a 14-horse race, including the well-known figures of Samuel Doria Medina and (yawn) Manfred Reyes Villa, for whom apparently running for President is a habit he just can’t kick. There have also been some ugly incidences of the not-so-democratic opposition making itself known again in the form of letterbomb attacks against civilian targets. Well, if you can’t get elected, you can always attack the people who will, right? Violence is a loser’s game. More soon, my friends, more soon.

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