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  • Writer's pictureMiguel Fernández

Ethnic Jealousy in the Altiplano (CE2, Xenophobia)

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

Around 1990 I got involved in the design and supervision of the work and the “start-up” (puesta-in-marcha) of the “Hampaturi to Pampahassi pipeline”, at 4,000m altitude which, since 1995, has supplied La Paz with water from melting of the Andes. BID financing, internal diameter 800mm, length 15km, in FFD-PB (Ductile Cast Iron – Ponta and Bolsa), PN40 (in the world until then the maximum was PN25). At that time I went to Bolivia 15 to 20 times. A “visa” for work in Bolivia took 3 to 6 months to issue, and it was a bureaucratic mess (sudamérica is an Iberian branch). In conclusion, we all traveled (French, Brazilian, German and one Uruguayan) with a “tourist visa”. As each visa was only valid for one entry, those who went a lot often had problems with “immigration”. Our contact there used some “dispatchers” organized in NGOs that provided some “coverage” at the airport. The customs staff, while turning a blind eye so as not to disturb business, I believe that in exchange for some participation, when they did not find anything, they got irritated thinking they had been deceived. In their minds, the assumption was that you would “take dust”, which would raise the “toll”.

As I was by far the most traveled there, I was the first to have problems. On one of my arrivals, the person in charge looked at the passport full of entries in La Paz, called a young policeman and directed me to a so-called “room 11”, in a corner of the mini-terminal of the airport that even seemed familiar to me (like many films of the genre “Midnight Express”). After a long time there, waiting, I began to think that the 3 to 6 month bureaucracy for the work visa would have been wiser. Finally, the “inquisitor” entered, a typical type anywhere in the world, I believe they also see the films and embody the characters. Sergeant Hurtado, his name was. He sat in the only chair at a table like a school desk and with me standing, having my passport in his hands and looking at my face with a smile of “I got you – it’s up to me” he asked:

_ that you come here so much? Business? Without saying anything to anyone, foolishly, I had invented a “brilliant” plot to explain why I was (and would) go to La Paz so often: _ is that I have a “novia” here. Hurtado's face of surprise and irritation. Reading his thoughts (which I wasn't expecting): _ “This Brazilian kid is coming here to eat our women and he's still laughing in my face! I'm going to fuck him" I regretted the story at the time because I had not foreseen this bias, but there was no turning back... _ Where is the “bride”? Waiting at the airport? “El Alto” ​​airport is very small and with few flights a day, due to the delay it must have been deserted. _ The bride is married, I am married and I cannot speak. A face of more surprise and more irritation, this time with suspicious curiosity. He didn't say it but I could tell: was it his wife or daughter?, his sister?, the neighbor? Then said:

_ I'm going to call the Brazilian consulate and embassy here and extradite him today. _ please, don't do that, it can bring me a lot of problems. Suddenly everything changes, he interprets that my lover was from the embassy, ​​therefore also Brazilian and, already with an air of complicity, he said: _ ah! Are you Brazilian too? I joined the game _ it is a very delicate situation, what can I say? Put yourself in my shoes, what would you do? _ a broad smile, already slipping a cigarette from my pack and leading me outside with the face of an old friend and accomplice: “we smokers must be united, bienvenido, enjoy!

Incredible! Unbelievable! From that day on, the airport employees knew me, they looked at me with admiration, with friendly smiles, I was passed as a VIP, all that was missing was applause. Knowing what it was, I was completely embarrassed. I think even I blushed. Anyway, life goes on

One year later and many trips and passages through “El Alto”, in a bar in La Paz, at night, I was with the group from SAMAPA (Águas de La Paz) and I came across Sargento Hurtado, who knew my friends. We were all already a little “high” (no pun intended). We laughed a bit. Clarifications made, look at his comment:

_ As at the airport, everyone got to know the story whenever the people from the Brazilian embassy pass through the airport, we observe and conclude that the ambassador has the face of a cuckold. If it's not you, someone besides the husband is definitely banging the ambassador.

The ambassador at the time, forgive me. If so...

Miguel Fernández y Fernández, Consulting Engineer, columnist and columnist, written on Sep 09, 2019, 4,448 touches

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