Issue - July 2010

July 2010


In this edition, Jamie Bassett uncovers the history behind Mother’s Day celebration in Cochabamba, William Dowling discovers the reason behind one of Bolivia’s biggest festivals, Lauren Rutter profi les Olympic Stadium and reviews La Chirola, Floriane Guyot tries to explain the urban gang phenomenon and Walter Sánchez describes the structure of Bolivian families. read more...

July 2010

Defending their Country

Jamie Bassett looks at the history behind the Bolivian celebration of Mother’s Day

Jamie Bassett
Projects Abroad
Lewes - United Kingdom

On the 27th of May we celebrated a very important day here in Cochabamba – Mother’s Day, a day where we typically show our mothers our appreciation with gifts of fl owers and taking them out for lunch. However, Cochabambinos do not stop there – they give gifts to everyone who is a mother: grandmothers, aunts, friends, and neighbours. But why is it so important in Cochabamba, and why it is celebrated on this particular date and not on Sunday, like many other countries?

The origins of this festival actually go back to the War of Independence when many Bolivians left their homes to fi ght the Spanish. Cochabamba was no diff erent, and in 1812 the local resistance movement rose up to face the Spanish General Jose Manuel Goyeneche and his army. Th ey were defeated and the army started to move on to crush other rebellions in Argentina.

However, they had not been gone long when another rebellion movement sprung up and seized control of the city. Unfortunately, this only served to attract the Spanish general’s anger and he marched back to Cochabamba, determined to crush the rebellion once and for all. Th e resistance was unable to withstand the Spanish attack and was soundly defeated, forcing the movement to go underground.

These women, their steely determination and their heroic courage served as an inspiration to Bolivians

After two costly battles many of the men were dead, leaving the city of Cochabamba and its woman and children unprotected as the Spanish descended on it, ready to loot the city and rape and kill its women. Undeterred, the women were determined not to go without a fi ght and bravely refused to surrender. Th ey retreated with sticks, saucepans and a few other primitive weapons to the hill of San Sebastian. Here, led by the very old and blind Manuela Gandarilla, they made their last stand against the Spanish. Th e women were heavily outnumbered and outgunned but refused to give in despite the overwhelming odds against them.

Although precise details about the battle are unknown, the outcome was never in doubt and hundreds of women were slaughtered. In the days that followed the killing continued unabated as the Spanish massacred all the supporters of the resistance, and a few others besides. In spite of this, this ‘victory’ weighed heavily on Spanish morale, who did not consider it a victory at all. Th ey had been fi ghting women without military training or even any real weapons, and their deaths left a bitter taste in their mouths. Th ese women, their steely determination and their heroic courage served as an inspiration to Bolivians and in the end the Spanish oppressors were fi nally defeated and Bolivia claimed its long-awaited independence, the last South American country to do so.

A lasting tribute now stands on the top of the hill San Sebastian, a statue built in 1927 that depicts the women fi ghting to protect their homes, and records the names of all those who died resisting the Spanish. The people of Cochabamba and Bolivia are still justifi ably proud of their legacy and the city remembers these brave women, the heroines of Cochabamba, and their noble sacrifi ce every year the 27th May.

Gran Poder The Grand Celebration

The festival celebrates Jesus as the second part of the Holy Trinity. It is the biggest street carnival in Bolivia and one of the biggest in South America. It brings together all the residents in La Paz, the surrounding suburbs of El Alto and beyond.

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