As our regular readers will recall, my partner, Marina, and I are travelling for the summer throughout South America as a means to celebrate the successful defense of both of our PhDs (Read about our travel adventures and reflections here).
I know things are hitting the fan at SciBlogs with the whole PepsiCo sponsored blog fiasco. I only superficially understand the ensuing controversy.
Alas, I have VERY limited internet access available, and thus would prefer to discuss another issue which I have noticed while moving through Bolivia for the past 2 weeks.
I’ve previously discussed the issue of wealth and obesity, from a historical perspective. In essence, throughout most of history, only those individuals with plentiful disposable income could afford to eat enough and move little enough to accumulate significant girth.
Accordingly, one’s weight was a direct positive indicator of their wealth and power.
Today, the situation is largely reversed. The richest people also tend to be the leanest.
At least this is the case in North America.
What I am seeing in South America, and specifically what I’ve noticed over the past 2 weeks moving quickly through Bolivia, is in fact, the opposite.
We’ve travelled through the following Bolivian cities and towns: La Paz, Uyuni, Potosi, Sucre, and Santa Cruz.
In some of these places, namely Uyuni, the average socioeconomic level is extremely low.
The town has no paved streets, no streetlights, and very few places to buy anything – especially food.
Here, one is hard-pressed to find an individual who is overweight or obese.
There’s simply no extra food to be had, even if one could afford it.
On the other hand, as the level of wealth increases, so does the frequency of overweight bodies.
For example, I am currently writing this from a café in Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz is one of the wealthiest cities, and the 2nd most populated in Bolivia. Despite what many imagine Bolivia might look like, and what I have seen over the past number of days, this place feels more like North America than Bolivia.
There are plenty of folks driving more expensive cars than I have ever been in: Hummers and BMW’s are common.
The clothing stores sell merchandise only in US dollars.
And the streets are lined with desert and ice cream parlors.
Not to mention various Bolivian reincarnations of fast food: fried chicken seems to be a favorite.
Along with the increased presence of this unexpected wealth and plentiful palatable food in Santa Cruz, is the significantly greater presence of overweight and obesity.
Sadly, I feel more at home here – with the greasy food and expanded waistlines than anywhere else in Bolivia.
Thankfully, for the first time since we started travelling, our hostel actually has a gym, albeit a severely derelict one, which I have been able to use this morning to work off the ice cream consumed yesterday.
I could not have been happier to see those rusted dumbbells and dust covered benches.
My hands still retain some of the rust from the dumbbells used this morning.