Monday, September 05, 2011

Pedestrain Day(s) in Bolivia

"What's the matter with you?! Today is Pedestrian Day; you can't drive!" shouted Jorge, an offended seven-year-old who was playing soccer with his friends on the Avenida Esteban Arze de Villa San Antonio. For just a moment, an authorized vehicle had broken through his improvised soccer field.

This is how the front page article begins in today's la Razón, Bolivia's national daily newspaper. Yesterday Bolivia cleared about 2 million cars from the streets in nine cities, calling it, officially, if not very succinctly, "National Pedestrian and Cyclist Day in Defense of Mother Earth."

Volleyball, street markets, music and dancing, kids throwing tops, hundreds of bikes (a lot of them on the freeways), people playing hopscotch in zebra costumes, old Chola ladies in bowler hats doing tai chi, etc. Of the forty or so people that got busted for driving, one was someone from the mayor's office, another it turns out, a drunken senator.

There's a video montage over here with this little article from the bbc, and maybe check out the general wikipedia article on car-free days.

As fabulous as this all is, though, it's worth noting here that Bolivia's real pedestrian event actually began last month, when over 1000 Bolivian Indians started marching 400 or so miles--from the Amazon Basin up to La Paz, at 12,000 feet elevation!--to protest a new highway through TIPNIS (Isibordo Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory) land.

some more details (English), and 16 minutes of interviews (Spanish)

related (offsite): patagonia sin represas

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