The Whiskey Chronicles (in Buenos Aires)

The Whiskey Chronicles (in Buenos Aires)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bolivia Chooses Evo

It's been a mad 48 hours here trying to keep up with the election. Contrary to all the pre-election polls the predicted a close race with no one getting a majority, Bolivian overwhelming chose Evo Morales, the leftist cocalero, to be the country's next president. Not only will Evo be the first fully indigenous leader in South American history, he is the first president in modern Bolivian history to get over 50% of the vote.

Whether or not you like his politics, no one has ever had such a mandate for change here. Far from being an indigenous movement based in the countryside, the MAS has proven itself able to attract middle and even upper class voters in the cities unhappy with twenty years of rule by the country's traditional parties. Now we'll see if MAS and Morales truly represent a change of course for Bolivia.

I've been writing like crazy to cover these election. You can see my articles, or articles I contributed to, in the Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, SJ Mercury News, and in the Economist (subscription needed, but I can email it to you).

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Election Day

If the roads are closed to almost all traffic and the sale of alcohol illegal, it must be election day in Bolivia.

Today is the culmination of at least a year (but maybe 180?) of political unheaval in Bolivia, which is voting to elect its fourth president in just over two years. With the help of a handy "permiso" from the electoral court, I was up in El Alto, the sprawling city of one million that overlooks La Paz, this morning to get a sense of the scene at polling stations there.

If the latest polls are right, the next president could very well be Evo Morales, a leftist Aymara leader who built his career in the country's powerful coca unions. Considering that Morales wants to legalize coca - the main ingredient in cocaine - it'll be fun to see how Evo and the U.S. figure out their relationship after he takes office in late January.

For the time being, I have two brief preview pieces on the election. The first, at, can be accessed here.

The second, for the Christian Science Monitor, is here.

I'll be back soon with the initial election results.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Word of the Day is: "morcilla"

Some people learn their foreign languages through repetition, others through natural talent. And on some occassions, you learn new words and phrases through searing personal experience.

The Setting: an intimate Buenos Aires restaurant in the hip Palermo SoHo neighborhood over Thanksgiving weekend.

The Characters: Bill, Dana, Andrea and Katie, two friends from La Paz

The Plot: This being Argentina, Bill orders a steak dinner, which arrives accompanied by two side dishes. The first side is a chorizo that heartily lives up to the high standards of Argentine cuisine. The second side is a little less identifiable.

Since he's already venturing into the table's third bottle of wine, Bill boldly samples a forkful of the black, sort-of-gelantenous sidedish. Numb taste buds still draw a blank.

"Andrea, try this and tell me what you think it is."

Andrea, who, I should note, is a vegetarian, digs in.

"I'd say some kind of black bean puree."

That sounds pretty good to Bill, but he calls the waiter over anyways for confirmation.

"Senor, que es eso?"

"Ah, esa es morcilla", waiter responds. Then, in English, "Blood sausage."

Andrea gamely looks down at her plate and suppresses her gag reflex. Neither one of us speak again about our coagulated pigs blood dinner. Evening ends with a fourth bottle of wine.