So R wanted to know what my friends from EEUU ask about Bolivia. And so, the most prominent question in my mind seemed to be the Abidjan vs. Buenos Aires question of M’s. I asked him what he thought, and not having much idea of what Abidjan is like, he ruminated on the differences between Buenos Aires and La Paz. The overwhelming sentiment was that Buenos Aires is much bigger. The streets are real “avenues.”
And then he ruminated on Bolivian immigration to Argentina. “Mostly for sewing.” But Bolivians are not welcome there. They are not liked. Its interesting how the same scenarios play out similarly all over the world. Regionally and trans-regionally. And it always comes down to the scare the those from less economically advantaged states will somehow bring down (whether economically or culturally) the more privileged state. Or perhaps, more accurately, the individuals within that state.
Of course none of this is revolutionary or novel. Just another confirmation of the global inequalities. Another reminder that I’ll likely never be able to draw a notebook map of Chicago or DC to help R get around, the way he’s done for me. He’ll never be able to just waltz into a country to do “research” on a tourist visa. And he’ll be prematurely considered suspicious, even in certain spaces in his own country. Because the world is a mundo of privilege and disadvantage. And perhaps the TOEFL is a step for one person to reposition themselves within that system. Certainly, one’s fate is not sealed, but its also dangerous to buy into some neoliberal notion that the individual can simply dedicate themselves and with enough hard work end up on the other side of the equation. I have faith that my next trip to Bolivia will be without R, with him off studying in Holland. But let’s not pretend it has nothing to do with global processes of valuing and devaluing human contributions.