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Bolivia: 132 years later feels like yesterday for a nation grieving a war lost and a seaport taken

By Angie Washington
Latina Lista

Angie Washington profile pic
COCHABAMBA, BOLIVIA — How heavy is a grudge?

The burden of loss passed down through generations weighs heavy on loyal hearts. At Bolivia’s birth as a nation, the people enjoyed a coast line. Trouble arose some 54 years later when that shore was lost during the War of the Pacific which began in 1879.

Now, 132 years later, school children still sing songs lamenting what was taken during that battle. They belt out refrains of recovering such precious sea ports on the day the loss is remembered.

March 23 is The Day of the Sea (El Día del Mar).


Bolivia used to be twice the size it is now. Wars fought bravely have ended in loss of land to: Chile, Peru, Argentina and Brazil. While all the names and dates are taught in Social Studies classes, the loss felt most bitterly is that of the possibility of export and import trade at a seaport.

Even in the most recent constitutional revisions made by the current president, Evo Morales, recovering the seaport from the land of Chile is a principle point.

Every year, the plazas fill with people to watch the children in parades for this day of remembrance. They recite poems, dance, sing, and even portray acts replaying the events of that fateful war.

One year a country-wide collection of letters written by students was sent to the president of the United States asking for an intervention of help for Bolivia to regain this port.

There is even a popular song sung in salute to the memory of that loss: It’s entitled ‘Recuperemos Nuestro Mar‘ (‘We Will Recover Our Sea’).

We will recover our sea
We will recover our coastline
We will recover our sea
We will recover our coastline 

Though it cost lives

We will recover the captive sea

The young are present

Bolivia lifted high, reclaims the sea

After this century of injustice

Death is worthy to be tolerated

Recover, recover

Is our cry and will

Recover, recover

The coastline and the wide sea

This year for the Day of the Sea, the senators and president governing this landlocked country are awaiting good news from Chile’s La Casa de la Moneda regarding the maritime issue.

Bolivia map.jpg

News articles attempting to address both sides of the dilemma portray Bolivia as hopeful and Chile as disinterested.

Great desire for a seaport causes rumors to spread of the plans for the construction of a tunnel under Bolivia out to the sea. While Bolivians talk and sing of action, too many years have passed for one to assume that the people will do anything more than hope Chile would return what was won during that war out of sheer good will.

Map shows territories before and after the War of the Pacific 1879
It seems to me that the only way an agreement could be reached is if there is a great benefit to Chile by way of taxes or other such exchange. This would cost Bolivia deeply.

I am afraid that the returns would pale in comparison to the costs. If anyone were to ask my opinion on the topic, I might suggest that Bolivia move on. Stop pining after something that has been gone since the nation’s infancy. Channel the energy spent on regret and grudges towards creative ways to tap into the untouched natural resources of the land so proudly called Bolivia.

Leaders should rise up and encourage the youth to invest deeply in new ventures within our borders to improve the country. I understand that many great opportunities have been lost over these last 132 years without a port. Might I ask how many other opportunities have been missed during those same years when the young have been distracted by the pains of their ancestors rather than driving forward infused with a belief that they can make a difference?

It may be that the powers fueling the feud are too strong to be stopped. The patriots who love their land will follow the examples and values set forth by their predecessors. I can only hope that such dedication will work for the good of this country and its beautiful people.

Learn more about Angie


Angie Washington lives with her husband and five kids in Cochabamba, Bolivia in the heart of South America. This has been her home since 2001. They run an orphanage called the House of Dreams and have a church called Christ Nation.

She believes faith without coffee is dead, enjoys laughing out loud, and collects cacti and kaleidoscopes.

Angie not only lives life to the fullest but it would probably be an understatement to say her life is full — full of children, full of love and full of the unpredictability that goes with living in another country.


Luckily, Angie shares her daily adventures at her blog “the @.” Readers can also follow her on Twitter at “atangie.”

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