Monday, April 2, 2012

Bowler hats

I keep seeing these amazing Bolivian women called the Aymara who are an indigeneous group in this country.  [This photo is not my own - I haven't snapped one of a person at this point!]  Most of them live outside of the city of La Paz in the country or in El Alto, the city to the north of La Paz where many of the poor live and migrate into La Paz to work.  The thing I love about these women, having only spoken to one in my life (the lady who works as a "maid" in our house), is their bowler hats.  They also wear flat black shoes, long flowing brightly colored skirts to below the knee, and always bright colors on a scarf that's tied around their neck or shoulders.  Their hair is long and black, almost always in 2 braids, and on top of their head sits a bowler hat like Charlie Chaplin's.  These hats in the picture above MAY fit, but most that I see are obviously too small.  But so stylish!  Many of them appear more Native American with sharper facial features.  Younger women carry babies on their backs in these brightly woven sacks with 2-3 children at their feet.  They sell things on the street, from shirts to foods.  They are in all parts of La Paz, selling their goods that they've gathered in the field or made at home.  Bernie, the maid in our home three days a week, is an Aymara who lives in El Alto.  She has no bowler hats that I've spotted (unfortunately).

I'm starting to learn about Bolivia and it's past.  They were a colony of Spain for hundreds of years, so for most of recent history until about 20 years ago, there was a huge separation of classes (caste system) between the rich "White" people of Spanish descent, and the poor indigenous populations (like the Aymara above).  They live and work in different places - the rich with the money and poor with little of it.  There has emerged a middle class here of sorts with business people, lawyers, doctors (who get paid little with socialized medicine and most of whom have 2 jobs).  However, it is still required to pay for medical care in most places and the rich fly to other countries to get better care than what is offered in La Paz.  I'll be learning more about this in the coming days. 

Another problem here in Bolivia: money for social programs to help children without parents, street children, teen mothers, better education for children of the working poor.  Thanks to Foundation Arco Iris (Rainbow Foundation) which was started about 15-20 years ago, many of these programs have been started and continue on with funding through the Foundation.  It runs on volunteers and attempts at self-sufficiency with bakeries and clothes-making businesses.  The Hospital where I'll start tomorrow is another part of this Foundation's work.  

I tip my bowler hat to all of you - thanks for reading!  And more to come....


  1. I've been reading...keep 'em coming! I feel like I'm there with all of your detail. Great you, and be safe (I know you will...I read about the grocery store!)

  2. Ditto what Gary said about feeling like we're there with you, Bek!! This is so cool and LOVE your writing style!!

    Before got to the end and seeing Gary commented...I could wait to comment that these are my kind of ladies!! I could easily dress like that--would be a great alternative to wearing purple when I'm old. I even like the bowler hats!!

    THEN...getting to the part you wrote about socialized just got better and, of course, right down my alley! My first thought was (docs there working 2 jobs? sounds like social workers and teachers in U.S.!)...then found the foundation work for children and family services fascinating, too. (Maybe you can learn a bit about the government there--from locals' perspectives--while you're there; would be interesting to know why there is system sounds so WHACK!)

    Someone ought to tug on Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation--as I understand, the mission of the Gates' foundation is education and healthcare!

    Glad you're staying cautious RE: food! Your juice discovery was hilarious!

    Love ya! Jenny

    (errrrr...sent message to your first food warning post...just figured out what "comment as" means...sure do hate that it has "Dr. Jenny Savage" on my "sign-out" address and hope maybe it won't show??...kinda' embarrassing writing to a REAL M.D. doc! So, please overlook if it does show...'til I can figure out to change that!)

  3. Bek, you should eventually post a picture of yourself decked out as an would be epic!

    I think me and you were both bred for adventurous journeys...ever since we were kids and mom and dad took us on all of those trips.

    I am envisioning us there right now, and trying to see through your words. You really are a fantastic author, and should consider writing a book about your medical journeys... you could call it, "Bek in Bolivia" (original I know..) and these entries could be your whole book! Of course, you might wanna edit them a tad, but who am I to talk- just take a look at my grammatical prowess (above)...hehe

    Te amo y mantenerse a salvo en ese hermoso país!


  4. Bek,
    Have you been to the "Mercado de Brujas"? Also, in Calacoto what calle are you on??? I.E. Calle 10, 11, 12, etc...