Wednesday, March 11, 2009


March 9, 2009

The other day I witnessed a disturbing sight. A bola – possibly our one and only – was lying prostrate in the middle of the street in our main square at 11 on a week day. (For all those who don’t speak Guatemalan: bola is the female version of bolo, which means drunk).

This could be deemed disturbing for several reasons:

Someone got so drunk that they passed out in the town square in the middle of the day.
Alcoholism runs rampant here, and there is little infrastructure to deal with it. Most people, when they reach the level of passing out, are abandoned by their equally inebriated drinking buddies, and the powers that be (ie la policia or, in this case, our one and only “traffic cop”) are loath to deal with the situation. Left to their own devices, they crash wherever they are able to take their last step, occasionally piss themselves, and generally lose their cowboy hat to the wind or trouble-making children. Additionally, women technically don’t drink, so it is likely, this woman didn’t have a drinking buddy to cuidarla from the get go.

Could she get hit by a car?
This, while possible, was unlikely. Being that we’re not exactly a raging metropolis, traffic is slow at best. Always putting safety first, our “traffic cop” or some other authoritative figure had taken it upon themselves to place two orange cones around her. Lastly, she was kind of hard to miss; besides being surrounded by the two traffic cones, everyone within a two block radius was staring at her. Women rarely drink (in public), and it is even rarer that one would drink so much by mid-day that this would occur. Hence: a huge spectacle.

Why is no one taking it upon themselves to move her?
This I cannot answer. I was not readily moved to take up the call either. My site mate and I discussed the matter, and decided that two gringas moving her out of the center of the road would only draw more attention to her, which is the last thing she needed. Whether this was to make ourselves feel better for not moving her, or was really in her best interest, is up to debate.

This does not inspire a great lasting first impression of the town.
A Trainee was visiting my site mate to get a better idea of what her life would be like once she swears in as an official volunteer in a couple of weeks. Bolos don’t create a great impression, but bolas even less so because they are so rare. Also, because no one was moving her, it didn’t make the people of the town seem very considerate.

I could go on, but I will try to prevent this blog post from becoming too long.

I am sorry to admit, the only living creature with any sort of compassion was a chucho (stray dog), who lay down to cuddle and support her in her moment of shame. (I apologize to anyone who would have loved a picture of this, but it just didn’t seem appropriate).

I feel incredibly sorry for this woman, who is the known bola in our town, and whose social status can sink no lower. It is frustrating that there is no organization or person who can provide her with the support she needs to overcome her alcoholism. It is frustrating that her children are being left without a mother or family to raise them. It is frustrating that people seemed to view the situation with humor rather than with any form of empathy.

She was finally moved on to the steps of the municipal building more than an hour later, by the aforementioned “traffic cop” and one of several bystanders, when a delivery truck needed to pass. I saw her again the next day, stumbling around, clearly drunk again, possibly unaware of her humiliation the day before and without hope or the likelihood of overcoming her addiction.

1 comment:

B. said...

I have only seen one bola in my town, and she fortunately made it to the sidewalk before passing out.

And one time I was in my favorite tienda buying a Coke Light at 8 in the morning on a weekday, when a woman came in with a plastic bag of soda, put a couple of Q on the counter, and the store employee filled up her bag with Venado. No words were exchanged, which leads me to believe that was a fairly regular transaction.