Saturday, January 3, 2009

Bolivia. El Alto. The New House


The new living room

I had told Eloy that I would return in the evening to take a photo of his whole family in the new, almost finished apartment. I ran a little late, trying to catch up with everyone in the city. I caught a cab in El Alto, just because I was running late. It was the most beat up car I had been in a very long time. My window was entirely tape. You could feel every bump, it felt as if the engine was going to stop immediately, and then going over the speed bumps…..I felt them in my feet, scraping the underneath of the car, almost as if it was going to break in half. I think it even had an 8 track player. But, this guy didn’t give a damn. It was his livelihood, and he drove it just like a new one. I then piled into a minibus at Cruce Viacha. I still find these minibuses some of the most extraordinary parts of El Alto. I always like climbing in them. I always feel safer, and it is always a collection, of rough and tumble, hardworking people trying to move forward with their lives. And I never cease to be amazed about how they pile in there. Late at night, people trying to get home. We were full when we stopped. They piled four more people in crammed in all around everyone. People were half standing all over each other. No one said a word, about letting them in. Not a word, not a complaint. It reminds me of the trains in India. We are moving forward and we all need a little help.

I arrived a little late to Eloy’s place. The store was already closed. I knocked for a few minutes, then heard a young voice asking who it was. I said, Lucas, and then there was a bunch of scurrying. Pamela then opened the door and let me in. I quickly noticed she had a dress on. She looked beautiful. I made it into their room, and saw Erica as well, and she was dressed up as well. I realized they had been waiting for me to take a photo. The room again struck me, just because so much happened in that one room. There were two beds for four people. Actually five. It wasn’t until later that I realized the grandmother was sleeping in the bed I was sitting on. After making a bunch of racket, I half joked if there was someone sleeping under that hump. Sure enough, it was the grandmother. What a trip. But, how cramped was that space. The girls had their desks at the window.

I gave them the new pictures of them I had printed. Eloy and Maria were most proud of the picture I had taken of Eloy with his Alacitas building in front of their building. He admired it for a very long time. It seems that people can be proud of the physical manifestation of something so different, it is tangible and it is there, it doesn’t matter if it is different from someone else’s or has a beautiful color.
The dream
It was only when we went upstairs into their new building to take a picture that I realized what an incredible thing this was for his family, and how different and new everything was going to be. Their living space will increase probably by 6 times. They have hot water in a shower. They have beautiful tile. They have natural light, they have wood floors. They have an indoor kitchen. I don’t really know how much Eloy and Maria will really, really be into all that stuff, but rest assured, Eloy is building a future for his children. But, it will be an interesting future because these are children that are learning both Aymara and English in school. The care with which the house is done is striking. It is immaculate, even now. There is a flame that will burn as you enter the door. There is a soap dispenser in the bathroom. He wants the best. And I can’t wait to see it.

The next generation

1 comment:

Ruben Hilari said...

Hey luke,

This is Ruben from El Alto-Bolivia. Very nice the story. That's our daily life there. I think we were all the time in econmic depression. But sooner or later we are going to develope in many ways ourselves.

Right now I am visiting New York-USA. I have been since last September, i will be until next July.

Good job Luke!!! I found your blog while I was looking for some wealthy house en La Paz in order to make a presentation.

Ruben