The 6th of August is Independence day here in Bolivia which of course is celebrated with much pomp and circumstance but oddly very few fireworks….? Apparently fireworks are just a Christmas and New Year’s thing. There’s nothing Bolivians love more than getting a band and parading around the streets, so that’s what was done Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Kinders weren’t invited to the city-wide march on Friday, so on Thursday we had our own celebration. Children dressed up in all the different traditional dresses of Bolivia and we took all the children for a march through the market. Despite the fact that this was absolutely spur of the moment by Madre Clara and it was the middle of the day, people are amazingly undisturbed by having to stop their cars and wait for a mass of 250 Kindergarteners waving flags and shouting “Viva Bolivia” to pass by. Once I got over my nervousness about someone plowing into us, I actually really enjoyed it.
On Friday, Tom and I stopped by Montero’s parade to see what it was all about. There seemed to be endless groups of people. Every school in town had to march with banners, flags, a band, baton twirlers, and their graduating class dressed up (men in suits, women in suits or way too tight skirt/shirt combos). Then there was the public college and the nursing school and a bunch of groups of adults that must have been government employees but I don’t know where from. Then there were all the military groups and at the very end a bunch of tractors with different plows on them.
Most of the bands were just drums, trumpets and xylophones (playing either “The Ants Go Marching” or “The Halls of Montezuma” – apparently this melody‘s actually from an old French opera so I’m sure they don’t mean any connection to the US Marines). One band however had recorders and a traditional pan flute called zampoña.
There seemed to be only two military groups: those dressed in black with their faces painted black and those dressed in camos with their faces painted camoflauge. Also the camo guys were all carrying what looked like bazookas? So I guess all I really know about their military is that one of their strategies is covert bazooka attacks. Only their Army equivalent was represented. Apparently they do have some “air force” based out of La Paz and a “navy” on Lake Titicaca.
If you can’t make it out, the side of the boat says “Policia Militar Navy.”
In other excitement, on Sunday we had lunch with our new friend Padre Mateo (Fr. Matthew). He’s a diocesan priest from California here on a 6 month sabbatical. He’s living and working with the Missionaries of Padre Kolbe here in Montero who run the Virgen de Cotoca parish and a medical center. He found us via our blog and contacted us a week ago to make connections and have someone to speak English with. I think he was also looking for some male presence as he lives with 9 women but unfortunately for him we’re a package deal so I tagged along too. It was really fun to meet the Missionaries who are a consecrated group of women living in community but not technically a “religious order” (they take vows of poverty, obedience and chastity but are considered by the Vatican a secular institute) and learn about their work. We also had a good time swapping stories with Padre Mateo about life in Montero and hearing his unique experiences being a priest here.
And if all that excitement wasn’t enough, we also finally spotted the elusive Montero sloth! And turns out there are two! They live in the trees on the main Plaza and I was lucky enough to catch this one climbing up a tree on Saturday afternoon. Soooo cute!