SO MUCH TO CELEBRATE IN SEPTEMBER!!
September is a special month for Santa Cruz, which celebrates it's freedom from Spanish rule every year on the 24th. Throughout the city, founded in 1561, events are planned to commemorate "El Día de Santa Cruz".
Tentayape and Elay Puej are two carnaval-type events featuring hundreds of university students and high school students (respectively) who prepare cultural dances months in advance. Tentayape took place on a large stage in the Manzana Uno plaza and Elay Puej along Avenida Cristobal de Mendoza. These dancers amazed the audience with their skills, especially the high school students whose ages range from just 13 to 18. The costumes and music were stunning as well.
September 21st (the first day of spring in the southern hemisphere) is Día de la Primavera and also marks Día del Enamorado (the Bolivian equivalent of Valentine's Day) and Día del Estudiante (Student's Day).
You can send a message to Santa Cruz - just follow the image below to our special Santa Cruz 2008 celebration page - enter your text in our short online form, submit your message and PRESTO! It will become a page online. You can even upload photos.
September 24th (Día de Santa Cruz) is one of the most important holidays of the year in this department (and as mentioned, is actually celebrated throughout the entire month) and finally, September is the month of the great
A huge international Expo in the city of Santa Cruz, the EXPOCRUZ lasts 10 days and attracts over 500,000 visitors per year from all over the world. During its accompanying 3-day "Rueda de Negocios", or Business Round Table, millions of dollars in international business contracts and general export and business exchanges are made. (This three-day Business Round Table will take place this year on September 25-27).
Business owners and exporters from all over Bolivia take advantage of this, the largest expo in Bolivia, to attract customers for all types of products and services, including agricultural products, manufacturing and machinery, technology, cattle and other animals, handcrafts, tourism, and others.
Over the course of these 10 days there is also ample entertainment for the crowds, including music, dance, theater, a rodeo, and other special events on an enormous central stage. It all culminates in another, although smaller, Carnaval-style dance on the last day. This is THE EVENT for people seeking to do ANY kind of business with Bolivia. (If you want to participate, you have to confirm and pay for your attendance many months in advance). The EXPOCRUZ takes place this year between September 19th and 28th.
If you plan to be in Santa Cruz in October, don't miss a chance to see the International Orchid Festival October 10-12 in the Jesuit Mission town of Concepción, located 4 hours from the city of Santa Cruz. This festival attracts thousands and hotels fill up quickly.
INTERNATIONAL ORCHID FESTIVAL
Lots of other events are taking place. Please check out Bella's EVENTS and EVENTOS pages where local companies, artists, and organizations list the events they are planning for the public.
Logically, more events get listed on the Spanish page, so be sure to check out both! And if you have a Bolivia-related event you'd like to inform others about, just enter the information right there on Bella's page, upload an image or photo if you like, click SUBMIT and voilá - you're event has been published and announced on the web.
Bella's SPANISH Events Page
Bella's ENGLISH Events Page
All About Concepción (Plus Photo Gallery)
Famed photographer and artist
WILLIAM BERNARD BROOKS
will be in Santa Cruz 10 September through 10 October for his Shamanic Interludes Exhibit at the Anahí Art Center. During this time he will also travel to visit and exchange with several of Bolivia's eastern Amazon tribes through the
GRAN PAYTITI FOUNDATION.
WILLIAM BERNARD BROOKS IN BOLIVIA
You can celebrate Santa Cruz no matter where you live! You'll find two new sections at Bella Store this month: in celebration of Santa Cruz you can purchase Santa Cruz t-shirts, mugs, mousepads, and many other products to show your love for this region. Press on the t-shirt to go to Bella Store.
SANTA CRUZ DESIGNS IN BELLA STORE
We told you about Bella's new BOLIVIA FOR KIDS SCHOOL PROJECT page in our last newsletter. It's full of information for students and teachers, in a fun and easy-to-use format that allows younger kids to surf BoliviaBella.com too.
NEW BOLIVIA KIDS SECTION
You'll now see many Bella pages have green BOLIVIA FOR KIDS banners at the top. These pages are NOT for children only. Many of them were written long before the BELLA KIDS pages existed.
Green banners have been placed on them to help students and teachers navigate around the site for information that is useful for school projects, and easily return to the BELLA KIDS home page when they're finished.
Special greetings to the many students who write us from as far as England, Australia, Singapore, Japan, and even Africa!
As part of the Bella Kids section, Kricket and Bella have designed a whole section dedicated just to the rainforest with information for kids on the animals and plants found here, why it's important to conserve our rainforests, a collection of informative videos, resources kids and students can use when studying the rainforest in school and Kricket's very own RAINFOREST STORE featuring cool gear with rainforest themes.
COOL RAINFOREST GEAR
The Rainforest Store is part of Bella Store and sales help Kricket and Bella with their online and offline efforts to inform kids and grown-ups about the rainforest and its importance to all humanity. We all benefit from the rainforest therefore WE ALL LIVE IN THE RAINFOREST!
You may have heard about the political problems Bolivia is undergoing in the news. It seems this country makes the news a lot lately. Many of you have requested a brief explanation of what is really going on here so I'll try to give you a summary:
NEWS FROM BOLIVIA
Culturally, Bolivia is like two countries in one. The Western Andean and valleys region's population is mostly Aymara and Quechua, Tiahuanacota, and others who are either descendents of the Incas, or were conquered by them. Bolivia's Eastern tropical region is mostly made up of Amazon tribe cultures like the Guaraní, Ayoreo, Moxos, and over 30 others which have nothing in common with the Andean cultures.
When the Spanish and Portuguese split up South America for conquest, they used geographic lines (such as rivers and mountains), and not these important cultural lines. Thus, there has always been a certain degree of animosity between Bolivia's western Andean and eastern Tropical regions. However, never before in the country's history have these differences been so seriously pronounced.
In 2005 Bolivia's new president Evo Morales Ayma was elected - the first indigenous president this country has ever had. For many years prior to being elected, he was (and continues to be) the leader of the "cocaleros" (Coca Growers Union). This union has fought coca erradication for years, sometimes very violently, with marches, demonstrations, and frequent roadblocks (some lasting up to 40 days) which seriously damaged roads and infrastructure, and left transporters stranded, their cargo (including live animals) left to die and rot in the trucks, and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to producers and exporters. These violent confrontations also left several people dead at the hands of angry demonstrators.
Evo is very popular among Bolivia's indigenous groups which, for centuries, have lived in poverty and have had very little political representation. When he was elected in December 2005 many of his supporters were also elected to Congress. Evo's party the MAS (Movement Toward Socialism) has since begun an aggressive campaign to re-write Bolivia's constitution to include these often-forgotten indigenous groups and provide laws to ensure their economic, political and human rights.
The problem is, this constitution was written by Evo and his supporters inside a military barracks, not in Congress. When representatives from other political parties and regions of the country found out the location had been changed, they did everything possible to arrive in order to participate in this very important event. Evo's supporters surrounded the army barracks, and would not allow representatives from other regions and political parties to enter and some of them were beaten - thus no other political party was involved in writing this new national constitution. This is where the real problem begins - because there is actually a lot of support from other regions for inclusion of the indigenous groups in the constitution - after all, nearly 65% of the country is indigenous, although less than 25% of the country's population is truly one hundred percent indigenous. Most of Bolivia's population is mestizo (a mixture of indigenous and Spanish, or other cultures).
In addition, Evo's government confiscated and nationalized the country's oil and gas industry and companies, and has announced and begun the nationalization of other industries like telephone companies, and soon all water and electric companies, and even some banks. He also cut the income of these eastern regions by nearly 85%. And while the royalties from oil and gas that are returned to Santa Cruz have actually doubled in the past two years, the government has not actually sent much of this money back to the state coffers and has frozen the state's bank accounts. In the meantime, Santa Cruz is flooded with new immigrants, at a rate of over 200,000 per year who come from Andean regions like La Paz, Potosí, Oruro, and Cochabamba in search of work.
There has been much opposition to this, especially from Bolivia's eastern region where most of the oil and gas, agriculture and cattle ranching, and exports are concentrated. In effect, the department of Santa Cruz alone contributes 39% of the country's gross national product.
Now, I repeatedly see headlines in international newspapers like "Bolivia's WEALTHY Eastern Regions Oppose Evo's Fight for Indigenous Human Rights" and other similar headlines. I believe it's important to try to see this problem from both sides:
It is true indigenous groups in this country have had to struggle to ensure their rights are acknowledged and protected and it's true that changes to the constitution were very necessary. However, a little historical background is also necessary, since apparently international media groups such as the Associated Press and Reuters rely upon news stories generated by reporters in La Paz (none of whom seem to have traveled to Santa Cruz) and they don't actually send their own reporters to Bolivia to cover both sides of the story.
Bolivia's WEALTHY Eastern regions have actually only been "wealthy" for about 15 years (of Bolivia's more than 450 years of history). Historically, all of the country's wealth has been concentrated mainly in La Paz, Potosí, and Cochabamba, wherever silver mines were found. For over 4 centuries, very little of this wealth was distributed to the four eastern states of Pando, Beni, Santa Cruz or Tarija and in fact, most of this wealth was in the hands of very few families (an example of this is the billionaire Patiño family that owned silver mines). In fact, the population of Santa Cruz just 20 years ago was just over 500,000. Today, just 20 year later it has tripled and will soon reach 2 million!
It is also true that there are some very wealthy families in Santa Cruz - most of their wealth is from agriculture. However, over 90% of the population of Santa Cruz is NOT AT ALL wealthy and in fact, MOST of the population of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija live in abject poverty.
The struggle begins with the writing of a new constitution, includes other arguments and problems involving the economy, and culminates in a serious all-out fight for the IDH (oil and gas royalties). Why are these so important? Because all oil and gas royalties are sent first to the central government which then decides how to disperse this money among the country's nine states. And while less than 15% of what Santa Cruz sends to the central government is sent back to the state, it's has the fastest growing population in the nation, and most new immigrants are from the West. This doesn't sit well with cruceños of ANY economic background, whether they be wealthy or not. They feel their state is generating most of the country's income at this moment, and that once again, very little of it is returned back to them. They feel that over nearly 500 years of history, the state of Santa Cruz has always been ignored by the government.
In addition, President Morales called for a national referendum on August 10th to either ratify him or end his term as President, but also included the state prefects (governors). He was ratified by 67% of the population, but the governors of the 5 states that oppose him were also ratified, most with nearly 80% of the vote.
The problem is, that during this vote (in which hundreds of international impartial observers participated at voting stations) there were many irregularities - just in the department of Santa Cruz alone over 200,000 people voted for Evo who are not listed in civil records (they were on the voting lists, but do not exist and have no birth certificates on record). In addition, in Santa Cruz and in other states there were cases in which foreigners (Venezuelans) were in charge of voting tables, in which foreigners (Venezuelans and Cubans) voted as if they were Bolivian citizens, and in which many dead people voted as well. In other cases, when people arrived to vote, they found someone else had already voted in their name.
So the struggle begins and Santa Cruz has been joined by Beni (huge agricultural and cattle ranching region) and Pando (the most highly forgotten and ignored of all nine states throughout history) and Tarija (Bolivia's wine country and also an oil and gas region). These 4 states have been called the "Media Luna" (or "half moon") and make up over half the nation's territory.
Dialogue between state and national leaders has ended in failure many times and the political situation here in Bolivia has gotten more and more serious as time goes by, especially with announcements by the government that on December 7th yet another national referendum will be held, this time to ratify the new constitution written exclusively by representatives of the MAS, to the exclusion of any other region's representatives. This has rocked the political boat to such a point that some analysts are saying civil war is imminent in Bolivia.
The five eastern states have set up roadblocks and threatened to take oil and gas fields back. These roadblocks, like the roadblocks held by Evo and the cocaleros just three years ago, are causing companies millions of dollars in losses. These roadblocks have been condemned by the government (even though Evo also blocked national roads many many times) and the President has declared that any damage caused by the roadblocks will be discounted from and paid by the states (even though his demonstrators never paid for the damage they caused during their many many road blocks). The Eastern states are calling this hypocritical and illegal.
They have also declared the call to a new referendum on the constitution illegal (as did the National Electoral Court - a president cannot rule a country simply by writing up one decree after the other with no consultation in congress). They also want the December referendum to pass the new constitution to be put on hold until the voter's registration records can be cleaned up, for obvious reasons. These states believe that Evo Morales is quickly on his way to becoming a totalitarian dictator.
In the meantime, thousands of members of Evo's political party the MAS have now stated they will surround the congress again and will not allow opposition senators to enter - in order draft a new LAW that would allow the December referendum on the new constitution to be legal, and thus to be held. They have also declared they will surround the city of Santa Cruz beginning September 16th and will cut off all roads and supplies to this city in an effort to obligate the population of this region to bend to their will.
Small spots of violence have erupted in Santa Cruz, Beni and Tarija and the government has sent hundreds of troops now to militarize these areas. This only inflamed the population of the eastern states more, since they believe the military, instead of being used to keep the peace, is being used to repress the people.
It's a push-me-pull-you situation that seems will have no easy ending. At this time, dialogue between the national and state representatives will probably not occur again unless an impartial international agency can be found to mediate. The Organization of American States was called to mediate, but it's sincerity has been called into question since its strong ties to the Venezuelan government were discovered. The Catholic Church has offered to mediate but President Morales recently stated that the Catholic Church is an institution of the Spanish conquest and that the church should be thrown out of Bolivia. The embassadors of several European governments have offered to mediate, but those offers has also been rejected by the government.
Eastern states continue to fight for Autonomy (over 75% of the population voted pro autonomy on May 4th). This is not a separatist movement, as many reporters have stated. It is a movement to change Bolivia's centralist system to one that is similar to the U.S. system in which some taxes are sent to the federal government, but each state also retains control of its own budget. I guess you could say it is similar to federalism (the U.S. system) but isn't quite federalism yet.
At this time, all we can do is wait to see what Bolivians will decide for themselves. It's very very sad to see all of this happening. Bolivia has never been so divided as it is today. Neither side seems willing to budge in its position and many believe that this is the most serious fight to regain democracy in Bolivia and that if democracy is lost this time, it may be a long time before this country will have a democratic government again.
It is also understandable that Bolivia's large indigenous groups, which now finally have a national representative, should feel empowered for the first time in Bolivia's history. And it is understandable as well, that they would not want to lose this power and will be willing to fight to retain it by any means they see fit.
Bolivia is a gorgeous country and I strongly support tourism, as my readers know, to ALL areas of the country. I truly hope this situation will not permanently damage Bolivia's tourism or international investments. The country could use a lot of prayer and support. If you'd like to send a message of hope to Bolivians, visit my HOPE FOR BOLIVIA project page. You can send an online message anonymously to encourage Bolivians to work our this problem peacefully.
More Bolivia News
Welcome to all our new subscribers!
We had a lot of new BELLA NEWS subscribers this month - welcome to the BoliviaBella online community. For those of you who don't yet know, "Bella" is actually an American living in Bolivia. She works as a professional translator and interpreter and also spends countless hours designing this site just for you! Find out about your friendly neighborhood webmaster here:
Who is Bella really??
As you can see, we've been very busy working super hard to grow and improve BoliviaBella.com and make it the number one English site on Bolivia. Parts of the site are also being translated into Spanish due to the large number of visitors we have from Spanish-speaking countries. We're always looking to improve - this site is FOR YOU so be sure to let us know what you want to see included on BoliviaBella.com - we're not on our way to NUMERO UNO for nothing - we're working very hard to get there!! Please direct your comments to webmaster "Bella".
TELL BELLA WHAT YOU WANT!
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