Upside Down Notebook

Putting the street into the notebook. By Ben Dangl

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Cumbia and Beer: La Paz Days and Nights

February 25th, 2009 · No Comments

Street scene in El Alto
[Photo: Street scene in El Alto]

A message on the window of the bus promises “Tourism, Peace, Love.” The radio sprinkles out a cumbia jingle.

At the bar the musicians pounding drums send ripples into the smoke-filled air.

Lightning hits like a strobe light, beating the night into a false day.

The hail collects in little streams in the street, rides down, turning the water white.

A choir positions itself in a park surrounded by streets congested with traffic. Exhaust hovers like a halo over the songs. Their brass horn militia combats car horns. No one listens. The park is empty. At the end, those in the choir clap from themselves.

After the soccer game that night the same park fills with fans gathering to celebrate. The dark pack of bodies moves, shakes with the rhythms of their victory chants. Celebrants ride on the tailgates of passing cars, spraying beer and fireworks into the air.

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