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Bolivia: The Coldest Night of the Year

Categories: Latin America, Bolivia, Arts & Culture, Food

June 24 is a special celebratory date throughout Latin America, as Juan Arellano wrote about the festivities in Peru [1]. In Bolivia, the date is celebrated on the eve of San Juan, which is said to be the coldest night of the year. Families and friends gather around a bonfire in an attempt to remain warm, while enjoying food (especially hot dogs) and drink. However, the collective smoke from the numerous bonfires leaves the skyline especially contaminated the next day, which draws the ire of residents that wake up the next day coughing and with red eyes.

The Democracy Center blog writes about efforts in the cities to encourage responsible partying [2], “Public service announcements in La Paz featured rap singers beckoning people, “don’t burn, don’t burn.” Here in Cochabamba a small group of people dressed up as fires and walked around aiming to spread the “don’t burn” message.”

Hugo Miranda of Angel Caido [ES] writes that he has always remembered lighting a bonfire with his family, and acknowledges that it contributes to the smoggy air [3]. Environmentalists and governmental officials always urge citizens to refrain from these fires around this holiday. However, Miranda thinks that this should extend to the entire year.

Que puedo agregar, algunos condenan las fiestas como estas, que van reñidas con el Medio Ambiente, sin embargo la contaminacion no es problema de un dia, es un problema de 365 años, escuchar a los medioambientalistas, me hace recordar a lo que dicen los catolicos que con ir el Domingo a misa y festejar a una virgen o cristo creen que la salvacion ya esta asegurada.

What can I add? Some condemn these feasts that are harmful to the environment. However, the contamination is not a one-day problem; it is a problem year-round. Hearing the environmentalists, I remember the saying that many Catholics think that going to church on Sundays or celebrate a Virgin or Christ's feast thinks that salvation is already guaranteed.

Food is a big part of the festivities and Vania Balderrama of Capsula de Tiempo [ES] recalls how “hot dogs,” on of the traditional foods on this date, are not a common part of everyday vocabulary in Bolivia.

Yo había comprado salchichas, pero olvidé el pan, así que mandamos a la Amalia (la empleada) a comprar pan de hot dog. Nada. La pobre recorrió todas las tiendas cercanas, fue hasta la plazuela, casi llega al primer anillo y nada de nada, vino con la novedad de que no había en ninguna parte el famoso pan de Hot dog, así que yo toda furiosa – pues las salchichas ya estaban frías- me fui a la tiendita cerca de mi casa y pregunté dónde fregados podía encontrar pan de hot dog. La señora Tere me dijo que no sabía y mientras me hablaba llega una señora y le dice “me da pan de panchito” y doña Tere le da ¡pan de hot dog!!!!!.

I bought sausages, but I forgot to buy bread, so we sent Amalia (our household worker) to buy hot dog buns. Nothing. The poor thing went to all of the nearby stores, all the way to the small plaza, and almost arrived to the first ring and found nothing. She came back to say that there was no hot dog buns anywhere. I was angry because the sausages were now cold. I went to the little store close to my house and ask where in the heck I could find hot dog buns. Mrs. Tere said that she had no idea and meanwhile I was talking with her, another lady arrived and said “give me panchitos buns’ and Mrs. Tere gave her hot dog buns!!!!

Finally, bloggers in La Paz found a way to celebrate San Juan in their own way, with a blogger meet-up [4]. Organizer Cronicas Urbandinas [ES] wrote about the invitation on his blog.

Jim Shultz from the Democracy Center

Bloggers in La Paz