STEREOTYPES OF BOLIVIA
Most people in other countries don’t know much about Bolivia. They know something about Aymara culture and they think it’s the only one that exists in Bolivia. When international reporters talk about Bolivia, they often announce news related to cocaine and some people think it is our unique production. Many migrants have gone to other countries and many people, who know them, think everybody is poor and untidy in our country.
For many years, several television documentaries, photo books and postcards have showed to the world some features of the Aymara culture: their music, their dances, and their physical traits. Also some very important cities like Potosi at colonialism age, or La Paz, the administrative capital, are in the altiplanic area. This information led foreign people to think that Bolivians are all indigenous people; however, in our country there are many different cultures and many mestizo people. There are various geographical regions with climatic diversity that generates diversity of culture, for example Guaranies or Mojeños who live in Santa Cruz and Beni. When I was young I used to live in Argentina and people who I met never guessed that I was Bolivian because I’m tall and not dark skinned. They used to say I looked like Spanish people. Often had I to explain that in my country, as in other American countries, there was a lot of migration causing different types of people.
In recent years, many migrants have been going to countries such as Argentina hoping to improve their living conditions or to have a job. Paula, an Argentine friend who works in a kindergarten that helps low-income people in Buenos Aires, told me that Bolivian migrants are hard working people, but they are untidy, and they are not that smart because they don’t care about their living conditions. They usually work for many hours and even on weekends. When I was there, many classmates asked me why Bolivian people didn’t understand very well what other people told them. They thought it was about malnutrition or something related to this. I had to explain that the real reason is that Spanish is not their first language. In my country we have about 36 different languages and even if people mainly speak Spanish, the largely indigenous and mestizo people speak Quechua or Aymara which are their mother tongues. In general, these are the people who migrate to Argentina. In Bolivia, there are smart and not educated people like anywhere else
People think La Paz is like Amsterdam because everybody can buy drugs easily because there are drugs dealers everywhere. That’s a common stereotype about Bolivia due the fact that world news often report about seized drug scandals. These are a few examples: “Bolivia raids 'huge cocaine lab' (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas Monday, 6 July 2009 00:31 UK.) “Cocaine production rise spells trouble for Bolivia” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news 16 June 2010) Former head of Bolivia's drugs police is sent to U.S. to face cocaine trafficking charge http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/ . At the airports we have to stay in a long line and police officers watch us carefully. Some Bolivian people think that coca leaf is important to their tradition, that’s why they fight to the right to grow coca plants. Evo Morales, the president said the famous sentence; "yes to coca, no to cocaine" because coca leaf is used for traditional rituals and as really good medicine for high altitude illnesses, stomach aches and headaches, too. In addition coca leaves have been found with ancient mummies in Peru and for many centuries indigenous people have been used chewing leaves because they give them strength and energy. What can I tell you about? I never saw cocaine and I don’t like coca tea.
In Bolivia there are many different cultures, some are in the Andean Plateau area, others are in the rain forest, and many others are in valleys areas. People from all these regions wear different kinds of clothing, eat different food, and they even have different beliefs, but in general, people who live in big cities like La Paz or Santa Cruz look like the people who live in other big cities. They are knowledgeable about technology. They have I- pods, Internet, wear T shirts and jeans, listen to the music that is on around the world, etc. As elsewhere, there are decent people, and other ones who are not. If you are really interested in a country I invite you to get to know it better because you will enjoy it much more.