We began our wait at nine am, asking all passing trucks, collectivos (shared taxi), and buses, if we could hitch to Unduavi. A national strike of workers asking to earn their pension while continuing to work had depleted the roads of nearly all buses. The rest had taken folks to the fields for coca harvest and others to La Paz for a political rally for Evo. After three hours, a bus pulled forward and we waited another forty minutes for the passenger list to fill.
We passed the time talking with the shopowner whose wife makes delicious banana cakes and chocolate cookies (the only baked goods we’d found in town). It was there we learned the reasoning behind our delay. His reasons gave way to us sharing about another strike we’d encountered upon our entry to Bolivia, teachers burning tires on the bridge that marks the country’s border with Argentina to express their anger over low pay.
He agreed that if the nation is to grow, education should be a priority. He likened it to working in the dark; you can’t get anything done, but in order to move forward and work in the light, someone has to pay the electricity. He shared that Bolivia has a broken tax system, and people expect the nation’s services to be free.
It may be some time yet before Bolivians are able to accept the changes that need to happen for the nation to grow. Perhaps harder times are too near a memory, and folks are guarding what little gain they are able to make. As was shared with us by a friend from home, Bolivia has had 200 coups and contracoups since its independence in 1825. The ever present reality is a lack of confidence; a stagnation due to a history of corruption.