My favorite things Bolivia

Yes, violinist Jaime Laredo is from Cochabamba, but that does not sum up what is special about Bolivia.  I’ve been to maybe ninety countries, and often I think Bolivia is the most exotic and wild of them all.  For a simple contrast, so many aspects of Yemen have fed into streams we are familiar with, and Yemeni food is instantly recognizable, even if you have never been to the Arabian peninsula.

The main strands of Bolivian indigenous life — which I estimate to represent sixty percent of the country or more — have barely touched America or Europe.  It is all strange.  It is (mostly) deeply beautiful, like visiting another planet.  The sky is intense, and the potatoes and corn taste much stronger than what we we Americans are used to.  “I went there to eat a purple potato” is a coherent and indeed a wise sentence.  Llama jerky is a major dish.

There is a three-toed sloth in the Santa Cruz parkPink flamingos and lithium on the other side of the country.  La Paz is set in a bowl of sorts where you can look either up or down and see homes carved into mountains.  The altitude (in some parts of the country) never ceases to feel like a strain, and the Andes are the world’s largest mountain range.  Some of the indigenous politicians have run against the Western Enlightenment.  On the Altiplano I encountered some of the most miserable-looking people.  The beautiful women have an intensity and a heartiness.  The bowler hat remains in style.

Most of the hotels aren’t very good.  The country has been landlocked for some time, and has lost territory in three different wars.  There are over thirty official languages and it is the number four country in the world for number of butterfly species.  You will not find a higher percentage of expressionless, stone-faced petty merchants.

Due to hydrocarbons, the country is growing at over six percent a year.  My favorite movie set in Bolivia is Even the Rain, a Spanish production I believe.

I strongly recommend a visit to Bolivia.

But as for Santa Cruz, well…that is something altogether different.


'lithium on the other side of the country'

You can never escape Nirvana, can you?

Sounds perfect for a depression clinic...

Photo is not of a bowler hat, but what can you expect from an American blog?

What is it then? Sure looks like a bowler hat to me.

For altitude sickness, a traditional remedy is matte de coca, taken by all the locals including me, and like a strong shot of caffeine only better. It's cocaine tea, but a very weak portion of the drug since it has not been concentrated from the coca leaf.

Hmmm. If you google 'quechua and bowler' you get rather a lot of hits. But what can you expect in the way of global news reporting from, for example, the BBC:

Photo is definitely of a bowler hat and Bolivia is listed literally in the first paragraph of the bowler hat Wikipedia page, but what can you expect from an internet commenter?

No true bowler would look like that.

"“I went there to eat a purple potato” is a coherent and indeed a wise sentence."


Why is it that first Word people like Tyler Cowen find Backwardness and Poverty so attractive? As a tourist, seeing other people live
poor very basic life seems to be attractive, but living and specialy trying to make a living in Bolivia is miserable. Uruguay, Argentina and Chile are almost first world countries and much better to live in.

He hates white people.

Hugo, I am curious why you capitalized "backwardness" and "poverty."

Argentina is like a first world country? Devaluations, unemployment, bouncing from one crisis to the next, poverty, and capital controls are first world now?

Oh, I understand. First world is code for white. Better go warn Japan and Korea.

i like how you immediately jumped to japan, rather than try to name a counterexample from south america

Chile is close to First World, and probably better off than some Eastern European nations.

Is it White? I guess it depends on your definition...

"On the average, American and European genetic contributions were similar and significantly higher than the African contribution. Weighted mean American, European and African genetic contributions of 44.34% ± 3 9%, 51.85% ± 5.44% and 3.81% ± 0 .45%, were estimated. Fifty two percent of subjects harbor African genes. Individuals with Aymara and Mapuche surnames have an American admixture of 58.64% and 68.33%, respectively. "

Where do you get poverty tourism out of this post? Hardly any of the points Tyler mentions are about poverty. Is he just not allowed to like Bolivia, since it is poor?

If course but he should signal guilt while doing so.

"Exotic and wild" are pretty much code for poor and isolated. Both Japan and South Korea have very vital indigenous cultures with traditions, mannerisms, food, language, even dress, that are nothing like the West. Japan even has its own system of years (it is currently the year Heisei 26). Outside of the major cities most Japanese speak little to no English, and have often never met a white person in the flesh. But people rarely call Japan "exotic and wild" anymore.

Final stop for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. However the Bolivia scenes in the movie were filmed in Mexico.

"I strongly recommend a visit to Bolivia. But as for Santa Cruz, well…that is something altogether different."

So you did not like Santa Cruz? Or you think Santa Cruz is unlike the rest of Boliva? Or is this a joke that I am not understanding?

I suspect he means it is unlike the rest of Bolivia. Geographically, it is in the lowlands. Culturally and politically, it is dominated by ranching interests and is far more conservative/right-wing than the rest of the country.

The Andes are not the largest mountain range, but are the largest mountain range unvisited by ocean-loving male and female giant squids.....
Also, since a color can not be both blue and not blue, I am guessing
that the "bluer" skies of Bolivia are more on the ultraviolet side than on our familiar infrared side of the blue continuum. Or a different admixture of whitish haze or refulgence - the Russians talk of sinii and goluboy......
I have only been to about a dozen countries, bluest skies I remember were in Ile de France and the UP of Michigan. As in "this is a blue sky that does not come anywhere close to reminding me of any other color but blue." Probably halfway between the infrared and ultraviolet outposts of the blue continuum.

How does Bolivia compare to Nepal and Tibet?

"Potatoes and corn" won't cut it; Whadja eat??!!

Hi Tyler,
I recommend Expats in Bolivia, if you are interested.

I’ve been to maybe ninety countries,

The foundations have too much cash on their hands.


I strongly recommend a visit to Bolivia.

Why? To taste the potatoes?

Some of the indigenous politicians have run against the Western Enlightenment.

Including the president?

Wow, I've just read all the comments. What a bunch of shits most of you seem to be.

Glad you enjoyed your trip, Tyler. Look forward to visiting Bolivia myself someday.

The hotels would be better if James Bond hadn't burnt that sweet desert hotel down.

I love their Marxist/Socialist Presidente Evo Morales. He will do wonders for Bolivia just like Chavez/Maduro and Kirchner have/are doing for Venezuela and Argentina, don't you?

The next time I say let's go some place like Bolivia, let's go some place like Bolivia.

I was in La Paz in the summer of 2012. The drive from the airport to the hotel where I was staying was easily a 40 minute cab ride, and it cost around $5. In addition, it is not customary to tip. You will find the entire country with prices like these.

This is a fine description. Have you been to Merida?

The Yucatan nearly gained independence because of sisal.

Tyler :
What did you think about Santa Cruz, Bolivia. ?

Did you have a chance to stop by Tarija? Most of the wines are made there..?

How about Titicaca lake the highest lake in the world. ......

And the movie "Alive" ...was filmed there between la cordillera de Los Andes and Chile ....

you may also need to check in to the RITZ CARLTON Hotel. .In LA Paz ..
LOS TAJIBOS HOTEL IN SANTA CRUZ. . There are many levels of places where you can stay. ....

anywhere in the WORLD is Customary to tip..
If you want to leave a good image of yourself to service industry professionals. .

I didn't say that I did not tip, only that it wasn't customary to do so, and we were told this on multiple occasions. This is also true in other parts of the world. I think I would edit your claim by saying that anywhere in the world, service folks would be happy to receive a tip, but it is not always expected.

Thanks, that's a very interesting comparison of Yemen, which seems exotic, to Bolivia. But now that I stop and think about it, the Queen of Sheba is not an unknown figure in Western culture. Even Yemen's cultural offshoot Ethiopia, legendarily founded by the Queen of Sheba's son, is a distant relation of the West: its Christianity and its similarities to medieval Europe is what attracted Evelyn Waugh to visit in 1930.

Yet, the high cultures of the New World emerged out of an isolation from the Old World of, probably, more than 10,000 years.

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