Wandering around La Paz this morning, before the weird temporary blindness incident, it seems there have been a lot of changes in the last year. Buildings are being renovated, a huge new pedestrian bridge has been built over one of the busiest and most dangerous intersections in the centre of town, and new flower beds have cropped up in the centre of the main street downtown. These may seem like small things, but to my eyes they seem monumental – the city feels like someone is starting to take care of it and invest in its infrastructure in some way. Its still chaotic, noisy and polluted, but there are little signs here and there that there is some investment in making it a more pleasant place to live.

One of the things I always notice here in Bolivia is the graffiti. There is a healthy sense of public politics and the expression of popular sentiment though the ubiquitous graffiti and slogans written on every vertical space all over the city. Being the north of Bolivia, most of it is pro-Evo, and recently I’ve noticed that these seem to be expressing an awareness of the change in the infrastructure as well. “Thank you brother Evo for the telephone lines” and “Health used to be for the few, now health is for everyone” being two that caught my eye this morning. As we get closer to the vote in August, though, there had been a proliferation of graffiti referring to the separation movement coming from the South. Little maps of Bolivia coloured in the green, yellow and red of the national flag pop up everywhere with the words “United Bolivia” above. More direct is the one I have put a photograph of here though – “Sucre, the capital of Racism”.

Otherwise, its hard as a visitor to really feel the changes and the politics that are going on, though I wonder how much any ‘normal’ person living day to day would feel it anyway. I see the day to day lives of the people I live with, and mostly they don’t involve intense speculation about political events or revolution. They involve discussion of things like the local gossip, or the coming San Pedro fiesta, their family or the weather. On one side, I know what is happening in Bolivia at the moment is hugely significant, but on the other I’m beginning to realise that revolutions can only really be seen from a certain perspective. In the price of bread perhaps, but more commonly only in the newspapers or the ‘big’ events of history. Take for instance last Monday – we had been told by the family whose house we live in that Monday would be a bad day to come back to Tiwanaku from La Paz, because there was probably going to be a blockade. Various speculative rumours suggested the blockade was about the contraband issue I talked about last week, but the ‘meaning’ of the blockade for us and for our friends was that we would plan to come back on Sunday night rather than Monday, and that we ought to make sure we were stocked up in food just in case it lasted longer than expected. Only yesterday, when we got back to La Paz again and read on Jim’s blog that the blockade was about the failure to extradite Sánchez Berzaín did it take on any other significance. I find myself wondering about revolutions… how do you know when one is happening? What does it look like? What does it feel like to have the world watching you and waiting for you to do something spectacular, when all you’re really thinking about is what to make for dinner that night or whether you ought to marry the boy next door.

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