Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age

Why Bolivia has Moved up on my Bucket List


Given that I really would, in the best of all possible worlds, like to visit every country in the world, but that it isn’t possible, I suppose you could say that I have my personal league of the 196 countries of the world according to how much I want to go there.

Bolivia has never been in the first division for me, though other countries in South America are.  To be fair to the country, that’s because I didn’t really know much about it, other than what I remembered from school (which, it seems, wasn’t entirely accurate!) that Simon Bolivar founded not Bolivia, but Venezuela – seems that with typical British understatement we didn’t give the man his due. I was musing about that the other day when mooching round Garachico, I realized that there is a statue of him in La Plaza de la Libertad.  Apparently his grandmother hailed from there, and emigrated after the town was almost totally destroyed by the volcanic eruption of 1706.

Ecuador has the Galapagos Islands, Peru has Machu Picchu, Brazil has the Amazon, all of which I am desperate to see. I have friends who rave about Uruguay and Chile. So those countries were much higher up my South American list than Bolivia. The journey I have laid out in the map in my head just didn’t include Bolivia – until Saturday night.

Saturday night I kind of reluctantly ambled down to the annual Folklore Concert in El Médano’s town square.  Reluctant because I’d had a busy day, and going out again just didn’t appeal, but on the last minute I decided that it would be good photography practice, and how on earth would I improve my skills curled on the sofa with pizza watching “Casablanca” again – which was the alternative.  Cold beer seemed attractive too.  I had none in the ‘fridge.

Arriving in the square it was obvious that, although scores of people were patiently waiting, perched uncomfortably on the folding chairs in the center, or more comfortably on the steps which lead down to the square, not to mention loads standing hopefully, nothing was happening.  In fact a Canarian folk group was leaving the stage, not beginning the scheduled performance, so I wandered over to a kiosk for that cold beer.

I’d spotted a space to the side of the stage, the same place from which I’d watched last year, and, as these things go here, it wasn’t likely to be occupied until something actually happened, when surely (as did happen) some kid and his pint-sized mom would push under by elbows. So I enjoyed the beer, and wandered back when I spied a couple of suits going back stage……….this, I believe, was the signal that the big wigs from the town hall had arrived and the performance could begin.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that if you’d said “folklore” to me a few years back, I would have yawned, and much European folklore doesn’t excite me.  I don’t mean to decry it, it’s just not, especially, my cup of tea.  Canarian music and dancing has, however, grown on me over the years.  As I speak more Spanish, and understand the words of the songs better I understand how many of them speak of love of these amazing islands, and I love the pure tenor voices many of the performances feature.  The dancing, though – not so much, but I would most definitely go to see the group who opened on Saturday night.  They were from Bajamar in the north-west of the island and their dancing was full of joy and humor, even saucy at times.  It surprised me – note to self, always keep an open mind. I loved the dance in the video below.  I’ve never seen it before, so I don’t know the history, but it ended when the girl knocked off the guy’s hat.  Another couple did the same dance afterwards, but arm was aching too much to film them, which was a shame, because they were really full of life and laughter, perhaps you can tell from the photos at the end!

Mallorca – sorry but your folk dancing doesn’t push any buttons for me, though, I’ll keep the mind open. Maybe once you’re actually on the island the experience is different.

The Mallorquín performance had been very proud and smiley, but staid, for want of a better word.  So it was like a thunderbolt when a group of guys dressed like so many colorful parrots burst onto the stage with an energy that hit me like an ice-cube down the back on a hot day.  I had, simply, never seen anything like it. Arms flayed, feet stomped, brilliant costumes swirled around.  When the girls arrived they were calmer and less colorful, like female birds, less colorful than the males,  but with smiles which would have lit up any dark night, and twinkles in their eyes, as they teased the guys into ever more dynamic movement.  I was utterly captivated.Their performance was far too short for me, but I assumed that the energy they put into it maybe couldn’t be sustained for as long as the other groups. Although they haven’t been formed all that long, they have, apparently, won several awards already.  Not at all a surprise!

Slovakian folk dance I learned next is witty.  Like a lot of these traditional, European dances the next act’s dances seem to center around the eternal struggle of boys to find suitable girls and vice versa, of course.  Slovakians, it seems, like to send up the mating ritual, and they kept us amused with the addition of a pantomime horse. Nice but, well, hmm.

Wow! Another ice-cube down the back.  The group from Bolivia were back! This time dressed in what I assume was a version of original, native dress, though I’m sure that men didn’t used to wear bright green bodystockings nor women green bikinis, but that really is to nit pick…….. doubtless original dress would have got them arrested! It all amounted to a constantly moving kaleidoscope, leaping, swaying, threatening, strutting and jumping across the dias with breathtaking speed. I could have watched all night long.  I can’t understand why the audience wasn’t on its feet yelling for more, but that’s the way of things here.

Many years ago I saw the Red Navy Dancers and Choir, back in the days when the Soviet Union was still a huge mystery to my generation, who’d grown up knowing only the fact of the Iron Curtain.  They were equally as breathtaking as the Bolivian group, dance-wise, though without the visual impact of those fantastic costumes. So when the final act turned out to be from Ukraine I was expecting great things.  Five minutes in, my legs in any event tiring from standing in one spot for so long, I decided to head for ice cream.  It sounds unkind, these were no doubt nice young people, doing their best, and seeing the traditions of other countries is very important in helping us to understand each other, but I still have such vivid memories of the Red Navy, even 40+ years on, that I was disappointed. Note, that disappointment is personal it’s not a criticism, and anyway I wasn’t sure what time Demeastre closed!

I can’t say I’m chuffed with any of the pictures I took. That’s partly because I’m woefully unskilled and inexperienced in taking these kinds of pictures. The lighting kept changing, so I had to up the ISO and then adjust again when the lighting went up, the angle wasn’t as good as I thought (I must have been more easliy pleased last year!) and of course, the frenetic movement was chaotic and constant. Still, I’m going to put them up – for the memory and just to give you an idea of the color!

I’m glad I dragged myself out of my lethargy and went, the beer and the ice cream were most welcome, but what animated and fascinated me most was the energy and the polish of those dancers from Bolivia.  Going spur of the moment, I can’t tell you the names of any of the groups who participated, but I must find out so that I can look out for future performances!  And…..well…..if they are ambassadors for their country (as we are always told at these kind of events) then I am thirsting to go Bolivia now!



Author: IslandMomma

Exploring island life and the freedoms of Third Age: Challenging myself every day: writing, traveling, snapping pix, running & teaching ESL

10 thoughts on “Why Bolivia has Moved up on my Bucket List

  1. What a compliment to their performance that it has you thirsting for Bolivia, now! Those costume colors are excellent, so bright! I see what you mean 🙂

    • LOL! I know it must be totally unrealistic to think the entire country is like that, but any culture which can produce that kind of performance has to have a lot going for it!

      If you keep going south maybe you’ll end up there! Just took a peek at your blog, in other words, and it looks very interesting – I will be back to read more when I am finished working!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. I think you’re being unfair to yourself about the pics. You’ve captured the energy and movement wonderfully and they compliment your words beautifully. Wish I’d seen this 🙂

  3. I’m so glad I went! Last year I missed this final night (and there were dancers then from Senegal and Thailand) and I kicked myself afterwards. This heat makes me lethargic I’m afraid, although the new brand of coffee I’ve discovered seems to be counteracting that to a great extent!! Thank you for the compliments they really are appreciated!

  4. Glad Bolivia is on your list now. It’s one of my favourite places in South America, complicated and culturally layered, with a lot to offer. It’s also absolutely beautiful. Really enjoyed these photos and hope to read about your trip to Bolivia one of these days! 😉

    • Now I want to go even more! I respect no-one’s opinion more highly than yours! Isn’t it odd how when you begin to develop an interest in something, you find references all over the place, as if it’s calling to you?! This morning I grabbed a book from my unread pile, because I was heading out to what I knew might be a boring day, and I wanted to be sure I had plenty to read! I didn’t even pay much attention to what it was. All the books on that pile I seriously want to read. So, when the time came and I took out the book, it turned out to be Che Guevara’s “Motorcycle Diaries”…yes I think the universe is trying to tell me something, but don’t hold your breath to read my posts, because it is a minimum of a year before I could dream of going. Still, never too early to start planning…….

  5. Your enthusiasm is infectious – now I want to find out about Bolivia too!!! Great post, I’m so glad you went or I would never have known about it 🙂

  6. It’s a festival worth visiting if you live in El Médano. Some years I’ve been disappointed. I quickly get bored by some forms of folkdance, but this group were just so outstanding in every way. Now any reference to Bolivia gets my attention!

  7. Gosh that looked like a great event! I love the colour, and the different dancers. I can see why you have added Bolivia up on your Bucket List! Great looking photos and youtube clip. I love watching performances where they really let themselves go and get into the groove of dancing!

    Thanks for sharing

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