Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas in Santa Cruz

The Christmas decorations started going up in October, and the retailers started advertising that month. Bolivians like Saint Nick, Santa Claus, the reindeer, and the Christmas music that comes from America, a lot of it with Spanish lyrics applied.
(Photo of Gina's sister, mom, aunt, and niece)

Santa Cruz residents have their own traditions as well, some of which I got a taste of. On Christmas eve, one of the reporters from El Nuevo Dia newspaper, where I had given a series of workshops, called me and invited me to have dinner with her and her family. Mom, sister, brother, aunt, cousin, niece. The event started at 9:30 p.m. and we sat around talking while the 6-year-old niece started opening presents. Beer, wine, cigarettes, lots of stories. At midnight, everyone in the neighborhood started shooting off bottle rockets and firecrackers for about 15 minutes, and then we went in to have dinner.

The traditional dishes are a kind of multi-meat soup, which is very tasty, baked turkey with a rice and date and nut stuffing, asparagus and pureed potatoes, as well as corn on the cob, with the cobs cut into small pieces. Dinner went on till about 1:30 a.m., at which time we all piled into two cars and headed over to an uncle's house, which happens to be right across the street from my condo building. There were about 30 people there, drinking and listening to music, with folks in their 60s down to teenagers. Christmas is all about getting together with members of your extended family. I stayed until about 3:30 a.m., and the party was going strong when I left. I'm known as a wimp, a pendejo, for not staying up late.

Today's edition of El Deber described different Christmas traditions and dishes in a half-dozen regions of the country. So you're getting a very superficial picture here. The local electric company has a big light display that goes up a couple weeks before Christmas and creates a traffic jam every night as the kids come to play games, get their picture taken with Santa and eat sweets.

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