I jumped continents a couple of weekends ago. Instead of going to the Chinese New Year celebrations, I attended the annual ‘Carnival Fiesta’ thrown by the Friends of Bolivia Charity in London. This fiesta has been a part of my life since I was born: my mother is Bolivian though raised in Venezuela, and my great aunt who I currently live with, was one of the founding members. So, before I even had the capacity to choose, my participation was a given.
At these fiestas you can enjoy typical Bolivian food such as ‘salteñas’ (pastries filled with meat and veg), ‘huminta’ (a cheesy maíz bake, the food of the gods ) and divine deserts. My favourite is ‘tres leches’ which is a condensed-milk-merengue filled slice of heaven. But one should beware of the ‘ajo’, a spicy sauce – it will set you on fire. An elderly female relative of mine was once traveling to the UK from Bolivia, carrying an ingredient for ajo, I forget which exact ingredient it was, but it was a pale powder. Airport security stopped her during her change over in Miami, thinking it was cocaine. She was ushered into a room where she was questioned, and eventually one of the guards dipped his finger in and tried it, all visible skin promptly went bright red and he started crying involuntarily. That is what ajo can do to you.
At the fiesta you can also enjoy Bolivian beer ‘Paceña,’ music and dance. Set dances in typical Bolivian carnival costume are put on, and everyone ends up dancing by the end anyway. The Macarena is also always played, much to my delight.
Friends of Bolivia is, like many charities, an amazing organisation. Having seen for myself the genuine help it gives to Bolivia, I am committed more than ever to this charity, and helping raise awareness wherever and however I can, like this article. Last year I pushed for FoB to be the SpanSoc chosen charity and succeeded. I also like to drag unsuspecting English friends to these events.
If anyone is thinking of travelling to Bolivia or is interested in getting involved, contact myself and/or the charity, especially if you’re interested in doing volunteer work. I can also give advice and contacts. It’s an amazing country, but you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. The words logic and safety don’t always apply.