Memories of Life in Bolivia

by Jannette de la Fuente

The most widely-known folkloric parade in South America is called "Carnival of Oruro," which is held each year in the small city of Bolivia-Oruro. Oruro got the nickname, "Folklore Capital of Bolivia" because of this carnival.

Photo of young girl playing a flute in a paradeAlthough there are many parades like this in South America, this one is the most colorful folkloric spectacle-it surpasses imagination. It takes place on February 28th and lasts three days, beginning at 10:00 a.m. on the main street of the city. The night before, people of all ages and nationalities (most of them tourists) come to the main street and take a seat, waiting all the long night for the next day's parade. Everywhere you can hear loud music, people singing, dancing, or drinking. This line of people who are waiting becomes an exciting party!

Around 10 o'clock the next morning the first sirens sound, cheerfully announcing the parade's beginning. The enthusiastic crowd has lots of balloons that are filled with colored water or flour, which they throw at each other. There are many troupes of dancers in the parade. These dancers wear traditional costumes-their colorful outfits are made by hand and have bright colors with many interesting designs. These groups pass, one by one, dancing to the claps and ovations from the spectators. One band usually marches with each group. The dancers also have beautiful masks that are reminiscent of Colonial era personages, devils, angels, or slaves.

This parade finishes around midnight and everyone stays there until the last group passes. This is a party of color, tradition and happiness.

NOTE: I've included a picture of Amalia's niece, Paola Navarro. She's playing a quena in the parade at Oruro.

Stereotypes About Women

by Jannette de la Fuente

I want to tell you something about the way women are perceived in my culture.

I am from Bolivia. Most people in my country believe that women make excellent mothers and are very good at managing family life, but are less intelligent, weak, and dependent. These stereotypes run through all social, economic, and educational levels.

These beliefs have had both positive and negative effects on the lives of women in our country.

Positive: Because a women is valued for her ability to mother, she plays the most important role in the nuclear family. She takes all responsibility for her children's education, social upbringing, and mental development, and she is highly respected for all of this. In my personal opinion, family leadership is constituted of two persons and both of them must share responsibilities and rights.

Negative: Women are people who have feelings, thoughts, and decision-making capabilities. It is a problem that in my culture women are considered to be less intelligent, weak, and dependent. Even worse, it is not only men that believe this, but also women, especially women of an earlier generation. This mindset affects a woman's whole life and through the generations has limited women's sense of their own development.

For Example:

  • It is believed that certain professions are better suited for women, such as: nurse, secretary, cook, etc. But throughout history women have held professional and political jobs of importance. Despite this fact, most women don't feel confidence in their work abilities because they are "just women."
  • Divorced women are looked down upon because women are supposed to keep the family united, even if this means that they have to tolerate abuse and mistreatment. Sometimes divorced women are even falsely accused of infidelity.
  • It's more difficult for a woman to get a job that is not considered to be a "woman's job," because employers worry that she might become pregnant, take time from work to care for her babies. Many employers also think that since women are "weak," they will have more absences and they will be less productive as workers. Often this means that employers dismiss the resumes of women who apply to their businesses for jobs.

In my opinion, a woman is able to do anything a man can do. I think that our stereotypes about women are a form of discrimination.

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Last Updated By Gail Matthews-DeNatale: 10/08/96