The writing on the wall across the street reads:
Ni indigenismo, ni oligarquía
Viva la revolución obrera
The main thoroughfare of wrinkled, potholed pavement branches out into a vast labyrinthine lattice of cobble-stoned alleys named after Latin American countries and leaders of this revolution and that. One in every ten buildings is a concrete and brick skeleton, an assertion of what could be but isn’t quite yet, a metaphor for this entire continent.
Eddie and I walk through Cochabamba’s downtown in search of what is either late lunch or early dinner. The informal economy punctuates every street corner; pirated DVD’s, candied peanuts, diabetes in a box. The main plaza (the best damn thing that the Spaniards brought to the new world) is filled with the usual shoeshiners toting their wooden footrests and the teenage couples sticking their tongues down one another’s throats. Plump old women sit in the shade peddling handicrafts and Chinese imports. The leafy trees weigh heavy with history.
On the walk back to Eddie’s apartment the streets are busy with the buzzing excitement of dusk: young girls smile embarrassingly as they exchange the day’s gossip, boys with slicked back hair and puffed-out chests hold on tightly to the hands of their girlfriends. The full moon is hidden behind the hills, waiting for the city to settle down before rising and slowly painting the valley floor from north to south in milky moonlight.
I know this isn’t my continent. I know I will always be a stranger here, no matter how many modismos I learn, no matter how many lyrics I can sing, no matter how many dishes I can cook. But walking through the streets of Latin American cities and pueblos always fills me with a sense of familiarity, a sense of calm.
Today’s podcast is a collection of some of my favorite electronic music from Latin America. It is meant for long walks through cobblestoned callejones of your favorite Latin American city.