Ladies lovely abound in La Paz, dressed up daily in bowler hats and shiny shawls with whiplash fringes and layers of billowing skirts and blankets tied at the throat as they make their ways through the days, life going on nicely, waiting for a bus.
I look a bit strange to the ladies because I have a big black hat that many ladies wear the like of, and my thick leather jacket has fringes to keep the rain from soaking in as I ride my motorcycle in the wind. I look like I almost dress like a lady, but different. Dressed up as I am the ladies call me caballero. We all dress up our best and strut, though casually so not to make a big scene of it, though we all look fine.
Just across the boarder in Puno, Peru on Lake Titicaca the city fathers put on parades to assure the locals that the drug gangs and terrorists have no chance of success against the commandos in the mountains and the jungles.
It has as much to do with dressing up as it does with being dangerous.
But being dangerous is part of why one can dress up. The bullets are as real as the shirts.
Life has little to do with dangerous. Life is mostly making enough money to pay the rent and put food on the table. Some people move outside the norm in their pursuit of money, turning to crime and harm of society in general. One can say it's due to the discrepancies of income. Most really don't care how much or how little another makes. Most simply want to live their own lives, poor or rich or in the middle.
It's not a perfect system, and some things needed get lost in the hurly burly. Some things are shut out from those who need them.
What one lacks privately, though, is sometimes given to the greater public so all can enjoy the beauties one cannot have alone. I look, for example, at art in the parks, at simple things like benches made better because someone cared enough to make a picture of the land to show the eyes of city-dwellers some ideal life that can be, if only in the mind for now, a sense of pride and happiness.
To sit, no matter whether one is poorer than most in Modernity, on a pretty park bench is to take part in a great experience of being, in this case, Andean.
To sit and be in the midst of ones home town at ease. To belong.
To live in the right order in which the police lead a Coca Cola delivery truck, it is the good.
Or to rage against it all in painted murals on downtown walls, shouting about the evils of life, this too is good, art being our hope and our explanation of our selves in a chaos we can't really control.
Most of us dress up to show how fine we are. We wear costumes to make ourselves lovely in the word. And sometimes our costumes are painted for the world around us as we would be. I've changed my clothes many times entirely as the climate changed and drove me to look for protection from elements. But always there is the sense of art that drives me, drives us, drives us all to the ideal as we would make it in the world, man and woman, standing in a crowd waiting for a bus, being particular and private and splendid.
A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:
Occasional-Walker-D-W/dp/ 0987761501/ref=sr_1_1?s=books& ie=UTF8&qid=1331063095&sr=1-1
And here are some reviews and comments on said book: