One of my sons and I were talking about war as he wishes to become a
soldier now when he grows up. He asked me if I had ever been in a war.
"No," I said, "but I almost started one once. When I was working
the Andes Mountains..."
He interjected (if a six year old can
that, which of course they can).
"Is that by the big grey Mountains where we used to go fishing?"
"No, it was in a fa-ar away land. Now listen son."
We were camped on the Alti-plano (caught a couple of cold hard
rainbows there and shared them with a friend) at just over 13,000
feet above sea level. We had been there a couple of months by now,
and it was time to scout the next area of exploration. Ricardo was my
driver and he and I and a rack of maps left Base Camp in a stake bed
truck early in the morning for a day long trip. The truck was a new one
and painted a fresh white with large company logos on the doors which
we would soon discover resembled some local government agency logo
of some kind.
The dirt road that wandered toward our next program took us
through a small mountain pass at the entrance of which was a small
village of mountain folk. Simple, plain. Men and women of short stature
given to other depths. Passing through the village was easy enough
with simply a wave to a couple of the few villagers about at the time.
We continued on another hour and a half to two hours and compiled
the advance scouting report of the next area without incident. It was
on our way back through the village (Santa Domingo maybe, I'll have
to check one day) that we were acosted. The whole village was on
hand blocking the road as we entered the pass and quickly surrounded
the vehicle. Then they opened the doors on both sides and five little men
with hooch on their breath and in their hands and a knife or a gun in the
other entered the cab with us. Ricardo did most of the talking while I did
all of the "ah shucks" smiling and they were soon convinced (not soon
enough and not that convinced either) that we were not government and
were allowed to proceed.
They sure were angry though, there at the start; anything could
happened in that first moment. "So that's it son. Sometimes it's what you
don't know that gets you. I was just out on a Sunday drive (not really)
and didn't think enough about the people around me." A little PR work
on the way through and the local folk would never have given the call to
arms. The hooch too, makes people make rash decisions and they would
have regretted any action they took on that day in 1992. But then again,
so would have I.
These Andean people, decendants of the Incan Empire, began a series
violent protests in 1994. These people grouped, came down out of the hills
to swarm the capitol, La Paz, and take over the government. They succeeded.
Sweeping reforms to the benefit of the indiginous majority were implemented.
FOOT & CHAIN