Issue - August 2008

August 2008

In this months issue Barbara Walter interviews El Alcolero; Hanna Redknap tells us about the next Pan-American Robert Moot for scouts in Bolivia; Perry King has news from Casa de la Alegra; and Walter Snchez presents a unique article from the Archaeological more...

August 2008

El Alcoholero

An extraordinary man who stands out amongst the crowds of taxis and drivers in Cochabamba

Barbara Walter
Projects Abroad volunteer
Sankt Augustin - Germany

In Cochabamba almost everyone knows the famous taxi driver “El Alcoholero”. For more than forty years now he has taken his clients home safely even when they are drunk and he knows countless addresses by heart. Having read some articles about him, I wanted to get to know this local legend and talk to him about his life, his work and his country. You will find Salvador Moscoso Sandóval from Monday until Saturday at the Plaza Recoleta from one thirty to four in the afternoon and at night from around seven until ten. Look for a little man in an 80’s green Datsun with stickers on it reading “Que Tiempos Aquellos” and “Alto basta a la corrupción Total”.

Cocha-banner: “Who gave you the nickname “El Alcoholero” and do you like it?”

Salvador Moscoso Sandóval: “Yes, I like it (smiles). I got it from some students of the Don Bosco high school. When I saw them roaming around the city during school time, I called: “What are you doing here? Drinking? Go and study!” So one day they started calling me ‘El Alcoholero” although I neither drink nor smoke.”

CB: “Do you have a reason for not drinking alcohol, for example because you see every night what alcohol does to people?”

SM: “Yes, but also when you drink you have false friends and the devil is inside of you. God will judge everything we do on earth one day.” When you meet “El Alcoholero” for the first time his smile will take you away. He has a warm, welcoming manner and is full of energy. He is talkative and keen to share his thoughts. But after listening for a while, you realize that he has also experienced many disappointments and setbacks in his life.

Moscoso Sandóval was born in the province Azurduy seventy-two years ago. Being the oldest brother, he had to leave school without graduating in order to earn money and take care of his younger siblings. When he was sixteen, he applied for the army but was refused entry because he was underage. However, the firm determination which has been driving him forwards through all his life forced the army to change their mind. His words: “If you don’t take me, I’ll kill myself,” convinced the general. No example better captures his determination, will and energy. Since his military days, he has tried his hand at a number of different types of work to support himself and his family:

CB: Which jobs did you have before working as a taxi driver and did you prefer one of them?

SM: I worked in a mine and for a private oil company before I went to Cochabamba where I worked as an elevator operator to save money for my first car. I liked my job at the private company. It was hard but well paid work. I think we need more private companies that bring their capital into the country. It is not only this driver’s past which has been tough. Being divorced for many years, he had to educate and support his children on his own. Today, neither his three daughters nor his son care for him.

CB: How much money do you make a month? Is it enough to retire?

SM: I save about six hundred Bs a month but I have to use it to pay for the gas and my living expenses. I cannot retire although I really want to because I need the money to live. My eyes are getting worse so I cannot drive when it is raining. I wish I knew how I will go on when I cannot drive anymore. I might go to a nursing home as I have nobody to look after me.” In this moment I got a glimpse of the tired old man behind the energetic facade. I could feel his disappointment with his society and its people. “Que tiempos aquellos”, “Old times, good times” is his motto when he talks about the differences between his past and today.

CB: You work with people every day. Have they and their society changed?

SM: There have been many changes but none of them for the better. Values like respect and honesty have been lost. Look at our politicians, unions and authorities, they are all corrupt. They do not care about the Bolivian people and are only interested in themselves.

CB: What do you think Bolivia needs? What kind of politicians are you hoping for?

SM: What Bolivia needs are new people, people who have never worked in politics before, people who know what life on the streets is about.

CB: Do you think someone like you would be a good president?

SM: For sure (smiles impishly). There are three life rules upheld by the people of the Quechua Empire: Don’t lie, don’t kill, and don’t steal. Politicians disregard them all, while I have been living my whole life abiding by them. The taxi driver says he has lost all his trust in politicians as after every election they have failed to keep their promises. He also has many strong opinions concerning the social changes he has witnessed over his lifetime:

CB: In other interviews you have criticized today’s youth for not having respect anymore. What do you think are the reasons for this?

SM: Parents and teachers do not feel responsible for the education of children anymore. It is the TV which educates our children and influences them badly.

CB: What else has changed over the years?

SM: The value of human dignity has been lost. One cannot walk alone on the streets, girls get raped, and people are murdered.

CB: Have you ever experienced a dangerous situation in your car?

SM: Once? I am scared every night to be robbed and murdered.”

CB: What do you do when drunk people do not pay you?

SM: I let them go to avoid a fight with them. It is God’s will if they do not pay me.

CB: But you have still kept this job during all these years. What is your motivation?

SM: My other clients and friends. They give me tips, care for me, thank me and show respect for my work.” He gets out a book: “This is full of dedications from my clients from all around the world. It is already the third one.

After having talked to this legendary driver I can understand what makes him so special for so many. Despite his lack of formal education and difficult youth, he has maintained determination. The energy and commitment he has for his work and clients are unmatched by any other. As a result, he has made a memorable impression on his passengers, and represents a great asset to Cochabamba’s busy streets.

First Panamerican Robert Moot

The Scout Movement is a worldwide youth movement for girls and boys. Most organisations are governed by the World Organisation of the Scouting Movement (WOSM), a non-governmental organisation of which Bolivia became a member in 1950, although Scouts had existed in the country since 1911. The WOSM´s mission is to contribute to the education of young people, and support them in their physical, mental and spiritual development...

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