An amazing thing happened.  We went off to visit one of the QBL projects, a dairy project way off down some bumpy roads, and nobody was there. We learned that everyone had gone to see the President of the country, Evo Morales! So we went, too. I found this event very moving, and I wrote a piece and posted it on my website justiceandpeace.net, but here it is to save you the trouble of going there:

In the field with Evo Morales

Friends, on Friday 9/22/06 on Democracy Now! the whole hour was an interview with Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia, an Aymara Indian, and a coca grower. Enjoy the interview, at http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/09/22/1323211

In early September, 12 friends and I had the thrill of seeing Evo in Bolivia. We were in the country visiting the small-scale development projects of Quaker Bolivia Link (qbl.org) and had found, in visiting a dairy project, that everybody there had left to see their President. So we went too! Evo had arrived in a big field by helicopter, with a bunch of computers he was giving to local schools, and the Indians from many miles around had swarmed to the field to greet him. It was a huge crowd - tens of thousands at least. We were the only "white" people there, and we moved into this huge crowd wondering just what to do, but we were warmly welcomed by all we met. The rally had been going on for hours when we arrived. Evo had played soccer against the local team (and lost, 2 to 1) and had just had lunch. There was a lot of dancing - native Aymara dances, we were told, "chorus lines" of women in traditional dress, lots of colorful decorations, flags that represent the unity of the Indian peoples, men in bull costumes poking their horns at other men representing Spaniards, and sometimes playfully at us Anglos - and it was when Evo danced that we saw him (his head, anyway, from some distance away.) Such a feeling of happiness everywhere!

When the dance ended, Evo walked to his helicopter, took off, circled the field twice silhouetted in the open door so we could see him and he could wave to the crowd, and flew away.

That was quite an event, and I found it very, very heartwarming. Of all the rallies and demonstrations I have gone to in Washington and New York and other places, this is the gathering that has touched me the most, moved me to tears to see the warmth and love his people have for their president, to feel so intensely the great hope and optimism the people have, now that for the first time in centuries the leader of the country is an Indian like them, with values that accord with progress of the people - equality, justice, health, education, help for those who need it. How wonderful it would be to live in a country where the people loved and believed in their President, like Bolivia today.

What this day most reminded me of was the feeling that we had in the US when John F. Kennedy was inaugurated. Then, there was a great feeling of optimism, of hope, of a belief that at last the country was set on the right path, was going to be guided by values we all believe in. My grown-up children, and probably many reading this, have never known such a warm and glorious time in our country, but it was there, and the feeling at Evo's rally was just the same. Maybe that is why it moved me so deeply, touched me to the core, to see what political leaders can inspire in the people. We have not seen that in this country for a long, long time. Will we see it again?

Roger Conant

Read Newton Garver's article, "Drama in Bolivia: Evo Morales' First Year"

Evo's 2007 calendar
Evo - Sovereignty
Newspaper announcing "Bolivia Changed forever!"
The crowd saying goodbye to Evo
Click on these photos to enlarge them. If you read Spanish and would like to borrow the newspaper, with speech by Evo and other interesting things, contact me, Roger Conant, conant@ecs.umass.edu.

and here are two more pictures, one showing a bit of the crowd and some of the festive poles, with the many colors representing (I think) the Indian peoples of Bolivia:

and the next showing two happy Bolivian women holding the newspaper announcing, "Bolivia changed forever!"

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