RELEASE DATE: 28 Mar, 2016

EDITORIAL BY William Wroblewski

Bolivia is a country of physical wonders. The Valle de la Luna, the mines of Potosí, the depths of the Amazon – the appearances of these places can collectively best be described as otherworldly. Even the altitudes at which many of its citizens live, and the climates they face, reach extreme levels not found anywhere else. Being in Bolivia can often be confusing and dissonant, as the mind can sometimes struggle to take in what is before the senses. In Bolivia, the very real world can seem surreal.

For her article ‘The Unearthly Beauty of the Salar’,  Flossie Wildblood visited the vast expanse of the Salar de Uyuni, the strangest physical region in Bolivia, and arguably in Latin America. This place, the world’s largest salt flat, has more curiosities to offer visitors beyond vast, white, grainy plains. A railroad graveyard, volcanic landforms and thermal lakes provide equally curious locales. The Salar is also home to the Salvador Dalí Desert, a small area with rock towers reminiscent of images from the painter’s work. The resemblance of this place to his work has led some to believe that the Spanish surrealist was inspired by these Bolivian formations.

In this issue of Bolivian Express, our team used the idea of the surreal as a lens to explore many corners of Bolivia. In addition to the Salar, we traveled into the unconscious, showing connections between the ideas of Sigmund Freud, no stranger to coca and cocaine, to Bolivia’s most important crop. We look into what can be described as Bolivian altered states of consciousness, from the experience of taking sedentary journeys with ayahausca and absinthe to the horrifying practice of entombing oneself in an elephant cemetery, where the darkest of alcoholics condemn themselves to a death by drinking.

We discovered in our work the prevalence of surrealism in Bolivia’s creative endeavours. Although there may not be a large, formal surrealist movement here, there are in fact examples of this approach across literature, cinema, theatre and the visual arts. We talked with artists who are quietly toiling across the country to introduce aesthetics of the subconscious and the absurdity of life into their work.

Surrealism is a complex idea. It can take you to strange and wonderful new places within your own mind. Seeing our surroundings in a new way, in a manner that is perhaps more internal than external, can lead to new understandings of ourselves and our connections to the world. Whether it is through visiting strange physical spaces, seeking out understandings of the seemingly strange ways people navigate their lives, or through the breaking down of artistic inhibitions, seeing the surreal inevitably leads to self-reflection. One just needs to begin the journey. Come with us and see what we discover. 


Shamanic Visions

28 Mar, 2016 | Clara Buxton

Gastón Ugalde: An Artistic Ode to the AndesOnly through art and architecture can we transform societies and build a better life.—Gastón UgaldeThe face is distorted but strangely familiar. The vivid st...

Fuzzy Logic

28 Mar, 2016 | Kit Fretz

Photo: Kit FretzAfter 17 hours of hairpin bends, we arrive in the northern Bolivian town of Rurrenabaque, situated on the banks of the Rio Beni, which separates the La Paz and the Beni departments. I’...

Filming Bolivia

28 Mar, 2016 | Oliwia Rogala

Image: Screenshot from "Volivia" by Sergio PinedoForeign and local films about a surreal country “Bolivia, a country in itself very surreal, has no formal surrealist film movement to speak of.”Four fr...

Cocaine and Lithium

28 Mar, 2016 | Oliwia Rogala

Photo: Oliwia RogalaTwo drugs that challenge the country‘From coca leaves to lithium, Bolivia is rich in beautiful and dangerous resources.’Coca leaves are deeply rooted in Bolivian history and tradit...

Revolutionary Ktisch

28 Mar, 2016 | Hugh Ollard

Illustration: Nikolaus Cox - Flossie WildbloodJudging from his recent loss in Bolivia’s constitutional referendum, President Evo Morales’ belief in his popularity may not be in line with reality. Howe...

La Paz’s Lunar Spacescape

28 Mar, 2016 | Clara Buxton

Photo: Kit FretzThe Otherworldly Beauty and Strange Myths of the Valle de la LunaPicture this: it is 1969 and you are American astronaut Neil Armstrong. You have recently gotten back from the moon. Wh...

Elephant Cemeteries

28 Mar, 2016 | Hugh Ollard

Photo: William WroblewskiFinding death in hidden bars across La PazThe windows are curtained, boarded-up or papered over. A black iron shutter covers the only door at the entrance. In front of the bro...

The Unearthly Beauty of the Salar

28 Mar, 2016 | Flossie Wildblood

Photo: Flossie WildbloodThe Famed Landscape Is Matched in Intensity by the Neighboring NaturalWe arrive in Uyuni at 6am, with the hesitantly blue morning sky above us and the muddy road beneath us. Th...

Literature and Absinthe

29 Mar, 2016 | Flossie Wildblood

Photo: Kit FretzCafé ETNO Continues the Timeworn TraditionNestled between museums and artists’ workshops on Calle Jaen, Café ETNO is home to what is arguably the best ajenjo you can drink in La Paz. C...

A citizen’s education

29 Mar, 2016 | Flossie Wildblood

Photo: Flossie WildbloodPutting theatre on the map of Bolivian cultureDiego Aramburo, director and founder of Kiknteatr, is dressed head to toe in black, with a solitary but striking white streak in h...

Surreal Questionaire

29 Mar, 2016 | Hugh Ollard

Photo: Kit FretzIt was a rainy, overcast day when BX descended on unwitting university students at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés to grill them on their views about some of life’s most pressing q...

Surreal Uyuni

28 Mar, 2016 | Kit Fretz

Photos: Kit FretzThe Salar de Uyuni is considered one of the most surreal places on earth. And day in and day out, visitors capture photos of its reflections and use its space to create comical distor...