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Goodbye, Evo

They all yield to it in the end, it seems: powerful presidents see their time in office coming to a close, and they think, why not change the constitution and have another four years or five? Bolivia’s Evo Morales-leftist, popular, probably the country’s most important leader in living memory-decided this year that 15 years was not enough.

“Mr. President, the Bolivian people’s vote has told us that there are no essential people, just essential causes”.

In Bolivia, Chola Pride as Cultural Ground Shifts

The caste hierarchy that long dominated Bolivian cultural and political life–Spanish-Europeans at the top, Aymara and Quechua native Americans at the bottom—is eroding, with the election of Aymara coca farmer Evo Morales to the presidency only the most visible symptom. In El Pais Semanal, Liliana Colanzi examines the intricate ethnic and gender politics of a changing Bolivia by way of the colorful skirts worn by native Aymara women:

“My son’s father scorned me. He said I was worthless because I wore pants.”

Bolivia:The El Alto Lynchings

El Alto, Bolivia. Photo: Alex Ayala Ugarte. Anfibia

When the state surrenders part of its judicial power to vague and locally defined ‘community assemblies’ who are permitted to mete out justice to thieves and other minor criminals, does it encourage mob justice and lynchings as well?

When someone presses the white button, Edson turns his head, waiting to see a face on the other side of the glass.

Among the Guarani of Bolivia, an Empire of the Woman

Mothers of Isipotindi. Photo CC: JG Estellano.

Once near-slaves to the owners of the giant hacienda-ranches of the Chaco region, Bolivia’s Guarani Indians wrested control of their own lands in a vast social movement that erupted some twenty years ago. The activists, many of them women, have imposed a different social order in the villages of the inland plains to the east of the Andes, writes Anfibia’s Alex Ayala Ugarte.

It is the dead of night. There is no light and I am in Isipotindi. The only lantern here is the nearly full moon that pushes back the darkness.

The Call of the Void

Ithaca wall, across from the library. Photo CC: Stef Noble

Cornell University sits above Ithaca, NY, on a plateau crisscrossed by chasms and bridges. Legend says that it is the university with the highest suicide rate in the US, that those chasms exert a magnetic attraction on the unhappy and the troubled. From Orsai, Bolivian novelist Edmundo Paz Soldan on his years teaching in America, and the call of the void.

It all began -- or least this is how I remember it now -- one cloudy day in 2003 in the town of Ithaca in upstate New York. It was one of those grey days that characterize the region, which lies closer to Canada than to Manhattan.

Bug Traffickers of the Andes

To the mountains of Bolivia every year come dozens of Peruvians and Japanese, there to buy rare insects and spirit them out of the country for sale in the markets of the United States, Europe and Asia for thousands of dollars. The business of catching beetles in Bolivia.

When a trafficker asks him for an order, Limber packs his truck with portable lights and a few glass jars and drives an hour along dirt roads to the closest hill, some 6,500 feet high.