Dia Del Mar

Bolivians can hold a grudge.

Bolivia is a landlocked country, but this wasn’t always the case. They lost their strip of coastline to Chile after the Pacific War in 1883.

That has never really sat right with Bolivia. Despite having tax free access to Chile’s ports, many Bolivians see the lack of sovereign access to the coast as a barrier to economic prosperity.

Enter Dia Del Mar.

Dia Del Mar (day of the sea) is half national day of mourning and half protest. In La Paz all the schools parade through the city in a cacophony of marching bands. The show literally stops traffic as the students March through the streets.

We were sitting in a cafe when this started

We were sitting in a cafe when this started

In the afternoon the adults get a turn. A full military parade marches down Av. 20 de Octubre, followed by what appears to be the public service. It all culminates with speeches by the president himself, and others, in Plaza Avaroa. All in all, quite the unexpected spectacle.

Plaza Avaroa was filled with military personnel

Plaza Avaroa was filled with military personnel

Unfortunately for us the effort continued the next day. We were on a bus from La Paz to Copacabana. At a small town 40 minutes from Copacabana the bus needs to cross the lake. The crossing is supposed to take around 20 minutes, but not Dia Del Mar.

As part of never letting go, Bolivia maintains a navy, exhiled on Lake Titicaca. And on Dia Del Mar, the Bolivian navy were having a parade and showing off their boats in the Tiquina straight of Lake Titicaca. Meanwhile, all civilian boats were banned from crossing the straight.

A well equipped Navy indeed

A well equipped Navy indeed

One by one more busses arrived, the passengers filled the dock, but the parade and speeches continued.

After a few hours, the grand finale was a flotilla of navy and civilian boats, of all shapes and sizes, doing a double pass by of the dock. This would have been fine, but did I mention how bloody slow the 40hp wooden ferries are?

This hospital ship is confined to the lake I guess

This hospital ship is confined to the lake I guess

High ranking politicians rode one of the ferries past us, waving to the (now overflowing) crowd on the dock. Instead of waving back or cheering, or whatever the pollies expected, all of the Bolivians started chanting, “we want a damned bridge!”

So that’s Dia Del Mar, the day Bolivia yells “give us our ocean back!” And who knows, it might actually get somewhere. Bolivia has actually taken Chile to the International Court of Justice. Their steadfast refusal to give in may yet pay off.

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