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Voz III | Crossed Off The Map: Travels in Bolivia

Blending travel writing, history and reportage, Crossed off the Map journeys from the Andes to the Amazon to explore Bolivia’s turbulent past and contemporary challenges

SourceVoz

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Blending travel writing, history and reportage, Crossed Off The Map journeys from the Andes to the Amazon to explore Bolivia’s turbulent past and contemporary challenges.

It tells the story of the country’s profound and unexpected influence on the wider world over the last 500 years – fragments of history largely forgotten beyond its borders. Once home to one of the wealthiest cities on Earth, Bolivia kickstarted globalisation, helped to power Europe’s economic growth and trigger dynastic collapse in China, and played host to everyone from Che Guevara to Butch Cassidy.

The book also explores how ordinary Bolivians in and around the world’s highest city, largest salt flat, richest silver mine and most biodiverse national park are coping with some of the touchstone issues of the 21st century: the climate emergency, populism, mass migration, indigenous rights, national identity, rapid urbanisation, and the ‘war on drugs’.

In its pages, award-winning journalist and travel writer Shafik Meghji illuminates the dramatic landscapes, distinct cultures and diverse peoples of a country that – in the words of one interviewee – ‘was the building block of the modern world, but is now lost in time’.

Here is a sneak peek from the book, to be published next month and available to pre-order now through our partners, Practical Action Publishing.

Voz brings our loyal subscribers a long-read article each quarter, conveying the experience and analysis of our partners: activists, journalists, artists and academics. We hope that their in-depth testimony and commentary will help broaden our understanding of Latin America, and through it, the world.


Prologue: Bolivia does not exist

In 1867, so the story goes, Mariano Melgarejo, the 15th president of Bolivia, asked the British ambassador to pay respects to his latest mistress. When the request was haughtily declined, Melgarejo, whose time in office was marked by brutality and political miscalculation, took great offence. The ambassador was swiftly apprehended, stripped naked, tied to an ass – facing the rear, naturally – and paraded around the main square of La Paz, before being kicked out of the country.

When news of the incident reached Queen Victoria, she angrily ordered the Royal Navy to bombard the Bolivian city. After being politely told that La Paz was located high in the Andes, 400 km from the Pacific coast, she called for a map of South America. When one was produced, Queen Victoria took it and crossed out the country’s name. Bolivia, she declared, does not exist.

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Crossed Off The Map: Travels in Bolivia will be published on 15 March 2022. You can now pre-order your copy from Practical Action Publishing.

Monisha Crossed Off The Map Shafik Meghji
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