Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

November 21, 2011

South America Public Health VI

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 3:24 am

It was an accident of sequencing, driven by arbitrary things like moving north to south without backtracking, and scheduling of the nurses training in Cochabamba with work in Mariposa, but it all looks so organically logical now.

We began high in the mountains where the Quechua have lived for centuries, even after the murder of their revered king, the Inca. Explored the bare rock skeleton of their magnificent city in the clouds, long devoid of plaster, gold and silver fixtures, and colorful textiles, but still breathtaking. I stood looking at it, fighting back tears. Elsewhere in the mountains, we walked on stones they laid over 500 years ago; we stepped over the mountain spring water still running in their ancient stone canals; we heard them speak their language, and then speak Spanish with strong Quechua pronunciation.

Sitting at a table on the plaza in Ollantaytambo – which name implies it was a resting place for the Inca runners who carried messages thruout the Empire – we saw a Quechua man in a red poncho bend over one of those open stone canals, dip in a plastic cup, and drink. As would have a runner over 500 years earlier. (Sans plastic).

Then, moving south, Cochabamba: an old town of Spanish buaildings which are slowly being consumed by algae and dissolved by rain. Everywhere, you see both races – the Euorpean faces of Bolivians who run businesses and create the local art scene, and the Quechua, still wearing sandals and traditional textiles, speaking their language until forced to speak Spanish. Their faces are still bronze, muscular and proud.

Both groups call themselves “Bolivians” but – – –

Now, here in Santa Cruz, its hard to feel that we are still in Bolivia. The second language here is Guarani; Quechua ponchos and colorful dress are rare. When I was here 40 years asgo, it was a sleepy Spanish farm town. Ox drawn carts on main street. Main street made of mud. Now, the city sprawls like a large Fresno or a small but growing L.A. Million dollar mansions and flashy sports cars rule, and the hot humid air makes you take off your poncho, but also spurs the trees to flower. Flowers so bizarre and colorful, nothing we have ever seen is like them. Even locals cant name them for us.

Yesterday we were assaulted by macaws and a toucan, looking for food. Butterflies everywhere.

So we have moved from the South America that existed before the Spaniards came, to streets where the two races intermingle, and now we watch as California – style agribusiness and cocaine dollars pave the formerly muddy streets and raze the sleepy haciendas to re-create Miami.

Leaving today for Paraguay, country of Jesuit missions, aboriginal forest people, and millions of memories.

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