I have lived here in Bolivia for more than 4 years now and it is interesting thinking of the things that I have gotten used to while living here. today after a meeting at Pedacito del Cielo I decided to walk home as it was a nice overcast kind of day. In the distance I saw a line of green and black across the road that I needed to cross. It turned out to be around 20 riot police standing in a row with their full riot gear on, bullet proof vests, helmets, shields… the whole works. Behind the row there were 3 pick-up trucks with about 10 police in each who all stared me down and shouted a few lewd comments at the white girl as I passed by. I continued walking towards the church plaza where there were at least another 60 policemen milling around, and on the bridge I could see yet another riot police barricade blocking people from passing by. It really is understandable that there’s a such a heavy presence of security as there is a meeting being held in the area, with Presidents and Prime Ministers attending from 17 Latin American and Caribbean countries. It wasn’t until I got home when I thought about the fact that I wasnt fazed at all by any of the guns, nor tear gas launchers etc. I am trying to figure out when it became normal for me to see these things. Here in Cochabamba there are even riot police at the football games for when the fans get rowdy and there is armed security all over the place. I guess you just get used to seeing it!
One event sticks out clearly in my mind. A few of us were out to dinner at the Irish Pub when a mini riot broke out in the plaza nearby. The people who were newer to Bolivia ran to the door to see what was going on and why people were running and shouting. The police had shot tear gas canisters at the protestors who were all running to get away from the fumes. While all this was going on Kimber and I just sat where we were and continued eating our soup while wiping away the occasional tear from the fumes! We are so used to all the riots and protests that go on in Cochabamba that we forget how different is it from back in the “western world”.
There are so many things that are no longer surprising after being here for so long. Seeing people on hunger strikes, protesting by tying themselves in the crucifix position, writing on protest boards with their own blood; it’s strange what has become normality!