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Cocani Mother - Madre Cocani (English and Spanish)

Cocani* Mother - This cocani works hard. Every day she is on the road. Twice a week she travels from the Yungas in La Paz (the political capital of Bolivia), to the city of Yacuiba, in the southern border of Bolivia with Argentina. She leaves early in the morning of Tuesday, reaches La Paz and takes the bus at 5 p.m., together with her 8 “taques” (a big bulk bag of coca leaves). The road, long and boring, passes through icy paths and reaches Tarija on Wednesday at noon, to get immediately to the next bus that will reach Yacuiba at 8 p.m., directly to the coca leave market, where her clients, coca leave buyers, are anxiously expecting her.

She sells her 8 “taques” making a profit of Bs. 500 per bag. This is to say that every trip means a profit of Bs. 4000. Painful money. Thursday morning she leaves again from the bus station in Yacuiba, taking the money with her. She gets to Tarija at 4 p.m. to take the bus back to La Paz, and reaches the city on Friday at noon. For Friday night, she is back in Yungas. She leaves again on Saturday to Yacuiba, getting ther on Sunday night to sell her precious, sacred coca leaves again, making another Bs. 4000. Monday night she is home again for a little while, and goes back to the road. She has money. She makes around Bs. 32.000 (around US$ 6,500) per month. More than the president Evo Morales, almost doubling his wage.

Her life, her day to day, is in constant danger. Her kidneys are grinned, her husband is working in Los Yungas in her brother’s “cato” (a big piece of land dedicated exclusively to the plantation of coca leaves), where he works day in day out so that she can sell the coca leaves in Yacuiba. She has the money to buy the 8 coca bags, so she does not need to hire “donkeys”. This is good for her. A “donkey”, is a person who has no money to buy the coca bag, but has the permission to transport the coca from Los Yungas to the southern border. The donkey “rents” his permission and makes half of the profit, meaning that our cocani would only make Bs. 2000 if she used a donkey.

It is 2008, the cocani I am telling you about is named Margarita (fictional name), has three kids, the oldest being 15 years old. Her 14 year old daughter, and her 9 year old boy take turns to ride with her in the bus. She is training the girl to travel by herself when she turns 15. Her oldest son stays home because he has to study, as the youngest one does also. They are men. The girl, well, it is not so important for her to study. This was Margarita´s reality ten years ago, as well as three years ago.

Margarita and her husband have built many homes during this last ten years. One in Los Yungas, another in Yacuiba, another one in El Alto city, and own two small public service wagon cars that go from La Paz to Los Yungas every day, they have their savings “for the kids to go to college”, and here she refers to the boys, because Soledad, the girl, is destined to keep travelling.

Her heavy days, her everlasting nights on the road, are worth it for her. No other job her family could do would give her such profit. Maybe being a smuggler, but you need to be born for that, be a part of another community.

Things being this way, Margarita was travelling in the year of 2009 when the accident happened on the road. Margarita died in a cold winter day. Her husband was called and picked her up crying. Soledad was with her and was helped by the other cocani survivors in the bus.

Today, 2011, Margarita would be very proud of Soledad because she now travels by herself to Yacuiba. She has her own coca leave store there. Her father, Manuel, is who now travels to Yacuiba to take the precious coca for her to sell.

When I met him on the bus, Manuel was worried because his oldest son, now 18 years old, had ran away with his girlfriend taking Bs. 2200 with him. “My son is lost”, he told me worried. “I have raised my kids like little plants, and now the oldest got lost. It because his mother is not with us anymore. How can I trust him now, if he has taken the money without telling me anything. For better, he has warned his aunt in Los Yungas. Only she knew that he was going there to visit. Now, when I go back to Yungas, I will go to his aunt´s home to see if he has arrived there”.

Life goes on. The day to day is a constant travelling. Constant is also the danger of his life, as well as the future of his children is of constant travelling. This is if they do not study, which is unknown to this day. How will things be for his oldest son, is also unknown, as he is now just ready to begin a family in the aymara style, as it seems that he has “robbed” his girlfriend. Margarita is only a memory, and an example for Soledad, who at 16, is a complete cocani woman.

*Cocani is the generic name given in Bolivia to people who work in the cycle of producing and selling coca leaves, the basic material for the production of cocaine.

IN SPANISH

Madre Cocani - Esta cocani trabaja duro. Todos los días está en el camino. Dos veces por semana se traslada desde los Yungas paceños, hasta la frontera en Yacuiba en el extremo sur. Sale de mañanita el martes, llega a La Paz y toma la flota de las 5 pm, junto con sus ocho taques (cargas) de coca. El camino, largo y tedioso, pasa por helados senderos y llega a Tarija al medio día del miércoles, para subir inmediatamente al próximo bus, que llegará a Yacuiba a las 8 de la noche, directamente al mercado de la coca, donde la esperan ansiosos sus compradores.

Vende sus ocho taques ganando Bs. 500 por taque. Es decir, cada viaje le significa una ganancia de Bs. 4000. Sufrido dinero. El jueves en la mañana vuelve a salir de la terminal en Yacuiba, llevándose el dinero. Llega a las 4 a Tarija para tomar el bus a La Paz, y llegar el viernes al medio día. Para la noche del viernes, ya ha vuelto a Los Yungas. Vuelve a salir el sábado hacia Yacuiba, llegando el domingo en la noche para vender otra vez su coquita, su hoja sagrada, ganando otros Bs. 4.000. El lunes en la noche vuelve a estar un ratito en casa, y vuelve a la ruta. Tiene plata. Gana como Bs. 32.000 al mes. Más que el presidente, casi el doble.

Su vida, su día a día, está en peligro constante. Sus riñones están molidos, su marido está trabajando en Los Yungas en el cato de coca de su hermano, de sol a sol para que ella pueda vender la coca en Yacuiba. Ella tiene plata para comprar los ocho taques, y no tiene que contratar burros. Eso es bueno para ella. Un burro, es aquel que no tiene plata para comprar el taque, pero que tiene el permiso para transportar la coca desde Los Yungas hasta la frontera. El burro “alquila” su permiso y gana la mitad, es decir, nuestra cocani ganaría solo Bs. 2000 si utilizara un burro.

Corre el año 2008, la cocani de la que les cuento se llama Margarita (nombre ficticio), tiene tres hijos y el mayor tiene 15 años. Su hija de 14 y su pequeño de 9, se turnan para acompañarla. Está entrenando a la niña para que viaje solita cuando tenga 15. El hijo mayor se queda porque tiene que estudiar, lo mismo que el menorcito. Son hombres. La niña, no es tan importante que estudie. Esta era su realidad hace diez años, y hace tres también.

Margarita y su marido han hecho varias casas en estos últimos diez años. Una en Los Yungas, otra en Yacuiba, otra en El Alto, y tienen dos minibuses que hacen la ruta entre Los Yungas y La Paz. Además, tienen ahorritos, “para que las wawas vayan a la universidad”, en esto las wawas son los hijos varones, porque Soledad, la niña, está destinada a seguir viajando.

Sus pesados días, sus interminables noches en el camino, valen la pena para ella. No hay ningún trabajo que la familia pudiera hacer que le brindara semejante rédito. Tal vez ser contrabandista, pero para eso hay que nacer, ser parte de otra comunidad.

Así las cosas, estaba Margarita estaba en viaje el año 2009 cuando sucedió el accidente. Margarita murió un día frío de invierno. A su marido le avisaron y llorando la recogió. Soledad estaba con ella y le ayudaron los demás cocanis que sobrevivieron. Hoy, 2011, Margarita estaría muy orgullosa de ella porque viaja solita a Yacuiba. Tiene su propio puesto de venta de coca. Su padre, Manuel, es quien ahora viaja para llevarle la coquita.

Cuando me encontré con él en la flota, Manuel estaba preocupado porque su hijo mayor, ahora de 18 años, se había escapado con su novia llevándose Bs. 2200. “Mi hijo se ha perdido”, me contaba preocupado. “Los he criado como plantitas a mis hijos, y ahora se ha perdido el mayor. Es que su madre ya no está. Cómo le voy a confiar ahora, si se ha llevado plata sin decirme nada. Más bien le ha avisado a su tía en Los Yungas. Sólo ella sabía que le iba a ir a visitar. Ahora, cuando vuelva a Los Yungas, voy a ir donde su tía para ver si ha llegado”.

La vida continúa. El día a día es un constante viaje. Constante también es el peligro de vida, así como el futuro para sus hijos es de constante viaje también. Eso si es que no estudian, que no se sabe todavía si lo harán. Cómo le irá ahora a su hijo mayor, que está a punto de iniciar una familia al estilo aymara, pues parece que se ha robado a su novia. Margarita es un recuerdo, y un ejemplo para Soledad, que a los 16, es toda una mujer cocani.

Comments

jap21's picture

Honoring Bolivian Mothers

Hi everybody. I wanted to share with you the story of a very special mother, Margarita, as tomorrow is Mother's day in Bolivia, and her children will not be able to party with her.

Hope you like it. I am eager to hear your comments.

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

vida.olive's picture

Hermana

Jackie,

This story is moving in that it depicts such a life that is not always reported about and thus is not known too much of. Thank you for this.

un gran abrazo

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