The Five Stages of Cultural Romance
Trip Start Nov 05, 2006
182Trip End Jan 14, 2008
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As I mentioned in the last entry, our timing for our stay in La Paz coincided with an annual festival in our ´hood for Mary. The neighborhood is in fact, named for Mary, the "Virgen de Rosario" neighborhood. We were excited to be present for something that is purely local and doesn´t contain a hint of tourism.
STAGE ONE - INTRIGUE
STAGE TWO - FASCINATION
Half an hour later, the second group approached with an similar format wearing different colors, marching, dancing and spinning down the street as they approached the judges tent. The new colors of the costumes with some variation on the dancing added spice to the event. Their ten minute performance fueled the crowd and while the judges judged, the performers swilled beer with the spectators before moving deeper into the barrio. We were truly fascinated.
STAGE THREE- IMMERSION
STAGE FOUR - EXHAUSTION
We decided to make the best of it and headed for dinner. How long could it go on anyway? Two hours later, we were back in the room with the street party and marching bands still going strong below. I peaked out the window and noticed that the current band wasn´t new at all. In fact, it was the first band of the day making another pass at the judges stand. The playing had gotten worse from drinking and the dancing was more free-style than choreographed as the Cholitas had clearly slammed back multiple beers. The masked male dancers occasionally ran into each other and tried desperately to pour more beer through the mouth holes in their masks. The crowd didn´t care, the initial cases of beer had been supplemented and alcohol had adequately lubricated the social scene. They danced along with the bands and the momentum of the festival (remember, this is a party for Mary) was in full force. Mary must be honored by such dedication. We looked at each other and I said, "the bands will stop soon, they´re too drunk to continue for much longer." As eleven o´clock approached, it seemed we had a winner of the competition and they made their final performance. We were exhausted with our local culture, and while still happy we´d witnessed this, were glad it was over.
STAGE FIVE - DESPAIR
Half an hour passed an the crowd thinned slightly. I anticipated some late night drinking, which ear plugs would easily muffle. It was then that I heard the clear, distinctive sound of an electric base tuning up below. I opened the balcony doors and peered over the edge. Sure enough, what was the judges tent would now be a stage for the final entertainment of the night. A stack of Marshall amplifiers and cabinets sat next to a stack of five Crate bass cabinets and amplifiers. "Nice equipment," I thought, "but we are totally screwed". Shortly thereafter, a five piece electric rock band broke into Santana-esque dance songs that began to re-energize the crowd. Despair set in as we realized that there may be no escape from Mary´s party as her revelers could very well continue ALL NIGHT.
A strange look came over Laura´s face. "I can´t take this anymore," she said as she ran out the door. Minutes passed as the room vibrated to the bass line. I tried the earplugs, but they only muffled the high pitched sounds as the bass continued to shake my skull.
Laura returned holding a key, a key to another room deep inside the building that had been a cancellation. Instructed by the hotel staff to "just sleep" and return to our room in th morning, we grabbed the minimum from our bags and escaped the raucous party below. In our new sanctuary we could barely hear the muffled band and revelers. Laura tried to unwind and eventually we slept. The party continued until 4 a.m.
Morning arrived and we returned to our room. It was Sunday and all good catholics, even those celebrating on Mary´s behalf the night before, would attend church. All was quiet on the street below.
Luck was on our side though as the main stage was moved two blocks away. The band played on to a re-lubricated crowd.