A Real South American Experience

Howdy folks, it’s me again!

Let me tell you a little bit about my incredible experience I had yesterday. I, along with a Dutchman, a German, a Swiss and a Scot, attended a real live soccer match here in La Paz.

I’m sure most of you know how seriously the rest of the world takes their soccer, and Bolivia is no exeption. This was a huge game, as it was what’s known as a ¨derby,¨ or two teams from the same city playing against each other. In this case it was Bolivar vs. The Strongest.

So the game was to begin at 3:30, but we were told to get to the stadium by 11:00 to get our tickets. So we obediently walked over in the morning, but to our great surprise we saw that at least 1000 people were already lined up. I kid you not, there was a huge amount of people there already. So we had a little chit-chat with a money changer there, and he said it would be no problem to get black market tickets (from a scalper) right before the game. We decided to return about 45 minutes before the match.

When we got back, the streets and plaza around the stadium were packed with literally thousands and thousands of people. We were hoping our gringo-ness would bring the scalpers to us, as they could charge us exorbitant rates (for Bolivia), but we soon saw the few scalpers out there were surrounded by impenetrable mobs of people. It was discouraging, and we moped around the plaza (with its 10,000 people and riot police everywhere). Eventually, though, by an incredible stroke of luck (I still don’t believe it), the German found a guy with five tickets all together. They were the highest priced tickets for the stadium, and he charged us double the face value, which worked out to 80 bolivianos a ticket. In Canadian dollars that’s about $11.

Well, we now had our tickets, but we had to figure out how to negotiate the mobs of people and get into the stadium. After trying to bribe our way into the press entrance, we pushed through the crowds towards our door. I didn’t bring my camera, so I can’t show you (more on the annoyingness of pictures later) the masses, but I cannot stress enough how many people were there. For the first time in my life I have been at the mercy of the movements of a crowd: often I tried to walk forward, only to be pushed back by the surging of the crowd. After what seemed an eternity of being compressed into masses of humanity (thank god I´m tall and Bolivians are short), we made it past the gate, and ran up the stairs towards our seats. The feeling of successfully getting in was quite heady — we all whooped and shouted as we sprinted towards our seats.

We came out into the stadium, and grabbed some places. By another incredible stroke of luck, we had literally the best seats in the stadium, right at the center line, up on the balcony. We were just four rows behind the TV cameras. Our view of both the field and the crowd was incredible. The stadium, we were told, holds 45,000 people, but that is just the official number. All around, people were packed in like sardines, and even the exits and stairways were packed with people — very illegal in Canada! There had to have been at least 55,000 people there.

The mood in the stadium was insane — the air felt like it was crackling with excitement. It became even more crazy when we realized the the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales himself, was coming for the national anthem (for more about Evo, wikipedia him or check out my post entitled The Shit Approaches the Fan). So yes, I have seen Evo Morales, and let me tell you, when he came out into the field, surrounded by a knot of riot police, the cheering was deafening. The German had his camera (the Dutchman had his pickpocketed in the crowd in front of the stadium), and he got some incredible photos of Evo waving, etc. I hope to get them from him, along with photos of the crowd and game, some time soon.

Then the game started. The mood in the stadium was incredible — everyone was fanatical for one or the other team, and had no hesitation in expressing their loco-ness. Absolutely incredible. The soccer game itself was a great match, too. There were five injuries, passionate arguments, and incredible goals. For the two goals (the game was tied 1-1), the entire crowd leapt up and screamed and screamed and threw whatever came to hand into the field. Indeed, after half time, as the players ran out onto the field, riot police were lined up with their plexiglass shields up to deflect the incoming debris, of which there was lots. Especially popular to throw were the glass Coke bottles, one of which hit a player in the head and put him out of commission for a few minutes.

I really cannot communicate how amazing this game was — a true cultural experience.

Enough about that, though. The day before we went to the provocative Coca museum, and I learned all about the incredible history of the coca plant here in Bolivia, and I even learned how to make cocaine from the leaves! Cool! After, I chewed some of the leaves, and it was actually somewhat pleasurable. I haven’t found them on the streets yet, but when I do, I’m buying a big bag.

Let’s see . . . I tried uploading my pictures for the THIRD time but these shit-ass computers can´t handle it. It is getting seriously aggravating. But please appease yourself with Yvonne’s photos from Guayabidos and Guadalajara. Hopefully soon (that’s a South American ¨soon,¨ which means probably in a week or so) I get up my pictures and the German’s too.

In any case, the adventure must go on!

‘K Bye!


~ by turvyc on January 21, 2008.

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