Thursday, February 07, 2008

Carnival in Santa Cruz -- Deadly Fun

We just finished the week of Carnival here in Santa Cruz. This is a holiday much like Marti Gras in New Orleans. This is the first year we have actually stayed in Santa Cruz. The majority of Bolivians love this holiday, but most ex-pats have advised us to either get out of town or stay locked up in our house for the four-day-long party. The festivities started out mildly enough with a parade on Saturday, and people throwing water balloons, buckets of water, shooting squirt guns, etc. But the party degenerates fast, with the majority of people getting stumbling drunk on Sunday through Tuesday. They say Tuesday is the day that God leaves earth and forgets about his people, so we (they) are free to do whatever they want. On Ash Wednesday, Catholics go to church to confession. I don't want to stereotype Catholics, but I think this is really their holiday. The Evangelical Christians I spoke with said they do not participate in any aspect of Carnival. As the days progress, people begin throwing mud, oil and paint. Many of the taxis and busses actually smear their entire vehicles with mud so that the other nasty stuff that people throw will not mess up their paint.

To escape the madness on Monday, we rented a cabin near the Lomas de Arena (sand dunes), half an hour out of town. It was a great time of hiking, swimming, horseback riding, and (for me) photography—truly a relaxing couple of days. I didn't try to get any pictures of the maddness that is Carnival, but here are couple of pictures from our tranquil little get-away.

As we drove back into town on Tuesday evening, the roads were full of drunk drivers swerving from side to side, and drunk people stumbling down the middle of the road. I have never in my life seen such a large percentage of the population drunk in the street like that. At the time I thought that it must be an extremely dangerous time to be out and about, but I didn’t know exactly how dangerous until I heard the next day that 30 people had been killed on the streets of Santa Cruz over the holiday weekend (and that was just in our city).

When I talked to Carlos the next day I found out that one of our neighbors out at the workshop had become a statistic as well. The son of the neighbor lady who washes Carlos’ clothes was killed on the highway on Tuesday night. Coming home drunk at 10:00 that evening, he stepped out in front of a car as he tried to cross the highway. The car sped away without stopping, leaving him dead on the side of the road. He was only 22 years old.

1 comment:

EFCCM Communications said...

I was going to express regret in not having pics of the carnival, but then I thought about taking my camera into a water-, mud- and paint-throwing zone, and had to reconsider. :-)

These two are cool enough to make up for it anyway! I'm glad to hear it was as restful as it appears. :-)