Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Babies from multiple partners and fighting back against road blockages

Last night I took a taxi from work into the center of the city. My driver, Leo, was a talkative man and since traffic was heavy at that hour, we had quite a bit of time together. Suddenly, he let out a big yawn.

“Are you ready to go home?” I asked.

“Yes. I work until ten, but I’m tired already.” It was shortly before eight. “The thing is I have a three-month old baby and he doesn’t let me sleep, crying all night.”

I congratulated him.

“I actually have two children, both born on the same day, May 6th. One is from my wife and one is from my second woman. I certainly didn’t plan to have two, but my boys are really beautiful, really special. One was born at 11 a.m. and the other at 8 p.m.” I wondered how he arranged the logistics of that.

His chubby face fell into a reverie as the images of his baby sons appeared in his mind. He didn’t even seem to think it strange at all to admit to his foreign passenger that he has two women, or two babies that may or may not know about their brother.

I had to stock up on food last night since stores and restaurants will be closed until this evening. Early this morning, around 6:30, I saw a couple of cars driving around. That might be early enough to be safe, before the blockaders get out of bed. A little after seven I heard the first firecrackers going off. And now, shortly after 8, I hear only an occasional car going by. I expect it will stay that way until the late afternoon, when people will start to reopen and try to recoup the income they lost during the day. As long as the strikers prevent a full day of normal business operations, they will probably be satisfied. The government estimated that the strike, taking place in six regions across Bolivia today, will prevent the exchange of $20 million.

People seem to accept the limitations on their freedom with surprising passivity. Yesterday, while returning from Samaipata in a taxi, I told the driver I’d read that in a national road blockage, the population only rose up against those blocking the roads in two places. One of them was Samaipata, a small mountain town.

“Yes,” he said. ‘They are afraid to block the roads near Samaipata now. When they do, we all go out, as an entire community – men and women and children, all carrying sticks. And we get rid of them.”

He told me how the church bells are used as a means of announcing community information. “Usually, when they ring, the children rung to the square to find out who has died, or what has happened. But when they ring urgently, as they do when there is a road blockage, the adults gather.”

I’d also read that it wasn’t so easy, that some citizens were severely injured. However, it seemed to have been a good investment for the community. Now, unlike much of the country, they are free from being trapped within their town. But today, even my driver who shuttles passengers between Samaipata and Santa Cruz, will be sitting at home. He hasn’t been able to stop the strikes in the big city.

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