A very common phenomenon here in Bolivia are these human roadblocks that the local people create due to a specific problem that they want to raise to the governments attention. I mentioned this during my first days here when there was the carnevals and many people couldn’t get to the parade (or to their homes) due to these blockades, and were stuck at the bus terminal forced to wait until it passes which took several days. This is one of the tools they use in order to show dislike and injustice in this society, an (often) friendly protest mainly run by the Cholitas the – women of the indigenous population of Bolivia – Cochabamba dressed in traditional clothes, normally a wide skirt to their knees, the hair in two long braids and a hat and often carrying around this colorful peace of fabric on their back with things, or babies. And they sit… Patiently waiting for the problem to be addressed. Often with their families, eating and discussing amongst each other.
This week, it happened on the road that I take to the project I work at. From Wendesday forward the blockade continued., the biggest problem being that there’s no other way for people to take in and out of town from there. And it is not just one specific place that they blocked, but every kilometer. No cars, taxis, busses or trucks were able to pass at all. Leading to people not being able to go to work and school if they do not intend to walk the whole way through the protest. Which I had to do. I am not gonna say that this is dangerous, as mentioned, generally people are quite friendly. But it is still a risk to walk though there, especially as a (light skinned) foreigner. So sure, I felt a bit uncomfortable to walk through, having eyes on me all the time, knowing that things could turn ugly quite fast. But mostly it was the unbearable heat and the distance which bothered me. Instead of 1h to work it took 2, and you arrived exhausted.
Generally, I understand that people protest. They see it as the best way of making themselves heard in order to make a deal with the government that’s in their favor so they will stop blocking. I think it’s just sad to see that when this happens in rural areas like this one, kids that really should be in school learning instead of on the streets.. or parents that really need to get to work to be able to live and pay for their families.. are just stuck and end up not going anywhere. You see elderly people, disabled and parents carrying their things together with their babies on the shoulders trying to get through by foot. So I wonder how effective it actually is. Because these protests and roadblocks are so frequent here that people aren’t even surprised anymore. They can sit there day and night not knowing if something is going to change. Nevertheless, it is an intersting experience indeed.
A little wagon passing on the old railway. But it you see a long row of trucks and cars left on the road since they cannot pass.