Iara Guzman Vallejos (Bolivia, AC 08-10)
A group of young people self-called the ‘guardians of democracy’, violently oblige a small group of countryside men to walk half naked towards the “25 de mayo” [25th of May] Square in Sucre, the capital of Bolivia. The men had been walking towards a peaceful protest which favoured a new state constitution, and were then forced to kneel down in front of the House of Liberty, the place where Bolivia changed owners. It changed from being a Spanish colony, to becoming the backyard of some northern powers, which benefited a few Bolivians with no love for their country. Once there, the supporters of Evo Morales’ current government were obliged to kiss the ground and the state’s flag, to sing Bolivia’s anthem and them burn themselves, their Whipalas [The Whipala is the indigenous flag. It is made of squares of different colours that represent the different indigenous nations in Bolivia] and placards supporting Morales.
This is an example of what two hundred years of inequitable governments by the Bolivian white minorities upon their own people has wrought.
The past governments can still proudly say that racism exists in Bolivia, as well as intolerance, poverty and discontent among the people. They can say that Bolivians have killed Bolivians… They can say with less pride that it is only now, under the new government which has left them jobless that Bolivia can hope for change.
After the ‘long night of the five hundred years’ of oppression, where the only rulers were those with foreign surnames, white skin, money in their pockets, and out-of-state education, we have arrived to the battlefield of and for beauty. This is the beauty that states that we are different but we are Bolivians; we live differently, but under the same sky; we speak differently, but we still understand one another. This beauty that doesn’t exist without justice and equality; this beauty that has a blurry shape in our minds, but is gaining clarity as we leave the land of night and begin to open our eyes.
Now is when Bolivia says: ‘Turn off the lights’.
But, how should we interpret this? Some may understand this statement to be Bolivia’s decision to stop people from seeing a unified country, the negative of some to recognize themselves in others. The will to be kept out of context, to go to sleep until everything is BACK to normal, to stay numb and to numb others because, unfortunately, some people have lost hope and others do wish that turning off the lights means all of what has been mentioned.
Nevertheless, I believe that turning off the lights will take us to discover the truth and the right way to assume the moment that we are now living as a country.
We say turn off the lights as a symbol of this new period in which we are to break the repetitive flow of the past. The day is coming and artificial light is no longer necessary.
We are awaking and it is time for Bolivians to see themselves anew, without the shadows of the past or its comfort, because no past time demands commitment and the future can be dangerous if no attention is paid to it.
I say ‘turn off the lights’ because like many others, I seek an accomplishment of unity among Bolivians. I seek this possibility, so that Bolivia can see the world through its own eyes, from its own position and so that the world can see Bolivia without the mask that a privileged few have imposed upon it.
I say ‘turn off the lights’ as a call to re-unite in peace; to restate that this country is ours and that it deserves, and needs a better faith; a faith that we have already started to build and defend.
Together, all of us.
– United World College Student Magazine –