Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cuestion de Fe

As he reached for the bottle of beer, I figured our drinking would begin. Instead, he opened the bottle, poured some of the beer onto the wall of stone in front of us, and quietly with knuckles already red with blood grabbed for the sledgehammer again. He turned to me, with a serious look of conviction in his eyes, sweat on his brow, and told me, ¨es cuestion de fe.¨ Silently I watched, repeating to myself what he had just told me, ¨it´s a matter of faith.¨

There is so much I want to share with you all and so much that is building within me, but all I want to say just will not come out right. I am tripping over words in Spanish and now even in English, and thus, the high altitude of Bolivia is not the only thing that has got my head spinning.

It was not until the day I journeyed to Quillacollo that I felt capable of sharing a little more about life in Bolivia.

I woke up early one Friday to navigate the ever so crazy streets of Cochabamba, a city that does not believe in stop signs or traffic signals, only good horns, and better breaks. Our destination: Quillacollo, a place place rooted in the history of Bolivia, where it is said the Virgin de Urkupina appeared to a person in need of help (sound like a famous virgin in Mexico and elsewhere?). At this shrine, I watch as my host family, who I have known for only two days , purchases a little toy house, fake money, and bottles of beer. Do not fear my friends, the beer was neither little or fake. The legend around this place we were visiting is that if you pray to the Virgin for what you most need, and return with those little items you bought and provide as offerings, she will provide what you need in full. I was both intrigued and confused.

It´s a matter of faith, es cuestion de fe, Pablo, my host brother told me, as we hiked up this large hill. We said our prayers to the shrine of the Virgin, and climbed some more, casita, beer, money, and now, a sledgehammer in hand. The sole purpose of the sledgehammer is to go to town on this huge rock, and any chippings that fall off, no matter big or small, must be saved, and returned the next year in order for your prayers to come true. And so as we approached the wall, more prayers were said, beer then poured out onto the wall and the ground in front of it, a tribute to the pachamama, or mother earth, a Bolivian tradition that is done frequently when consuming beer, because it is to the Pachamama that we owe our gratitude for life on earth.

For the next thirty minutes, my family hammered away at this wall of stone, collecting every little chip, big or small, that broke away as a result of their hardwork. They worked tirelessly at this task, explaining to me that you just can not pray for the things you want, you must in some way work for the things you want as well. Es fe, cuestion de fe, I hear over and over until it is engrained into my own head: it is a matter of faith. I look at my host brother, hands red with his own blood, face wet with his own sweat, and realize that this rich culture that has found a way to maintain its cultural native routes while blending the Catholic religiosity that defines so much of Latin America perhaps has a thing or two to teach me.

And as much as I would love to have the story ability to more effectively tell the story of this sometimes exciting, sometimes bizzare journey, but I realized through this experience with my host family, I can´t tell it. It simply has to be a matter of faith that those who need to understand, do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post. I really enjoyed it. I am glad that you were able to experience...that is one thing that I would have liked to have done during my time there.

See ya soon