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The Christmas spirit in Riberalta

Cold temperatures, mountains, Christmas trees, lights songs etc. That is what comes to my mind when I think about Christmas and probably for most people living in the Northern hemisphere of the World. Yes, it is my first Christmas here, in the South! The first time that I am not back home with my family, but instead in a foreign country where I don’t know anyone as most volunteers have left already. First Christmas in Bolivia, but not most importantly, first Christmas in Riberalta!!

How is it? Much different. I don’t really feel the ‘Christmas spirit’ I would say. Why did I just put in the quotation marks? Because this term has suffered much manipulation and much modification since its original merely religious background. In fact, once Christmas’ only importance, was the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. A period when Christians came closer under a spirit of solidarity and altruism. Was that an intrinsic and spontaneous value people had or was just something they were doing once a year as it was a religious costume, they just had to follow for being consider good Christians? In my opinion, it was, and it is the latter. But that is not really my point. Many features, costumes, habits and decorations that I previously outlined as being traditional in Christmas for most countries and its people, are actually not. The most famous symbol of Christmas, the Christmas tree, was a protestant German tradition since the 17th century until it was spread to England too, thanks to the marriage of Prince Albert of Germany to Queen Victoria. Americans, not much later, adopted the tradition too. What about gifts and lights and Father Christmas? For sure, not a Bolivian tradition! Thanks to Globalization, all this has spread all around the world; paradoxically, even in non-Christian countries and traditions! That is because the Christmas spirit has been altered. Always more detached from its original religious roots and closer to its new consumerist edition, Christmas has become mainly a period of commercial holidays, with much less ‘holy’ in it. How many people go to church or pray on their own during Christmas days?

Here there are almost any lights in the streets at all. Most of them aren’t even paved roads. People don’t have that much to spend. There aren’t many shops garnered with lights and big sales and discounts labels; supermarkets don’t even exist! Most inhabitants are very religious, and religion in general has in important role and influence in their lives. Their way of celebrating Christmas is still pretty much as humble and uncontaminated as it once was in western countries (maybe). Although it might seem strange or unconventional, I really don’t mind spending Christmas with almost anyone in middle of an Amazonian town isolated from everything. Actually, I am very happy to be here right now! Back in my place, I would be complaining all the time of how hypocritical our societies are during these days, how many advertisements for buying gifts are everywhere when on the same time you find homeless people begging for some money outside the several gift shops. Here you don’t find any homeless, people are very poor but more or less equal. They all have (in compare to our town and cities) the same standards of living, walked and drive on the same unpaved roads with no sidewalks, face the same risk of getting bitten by a mosquito carrying disease. They might seem ruder or less caring of civil rules, but they are most sincere and less hypocrites than we are. Even in this harsh situation of poverty, Riberaltenos seem happier and more careless than we are. Their way of life is less stressful, less arrogant and generally simpler and peaceful.

So, what better of being in a peaceful and tropical environment?

Thanks, Riberalta !

Feliz Navidad !

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