By Carlos Perez
AYO AYO, Bolivia – The Aymara Indians of this town in the Bolivian highlands paid tribute Tuesday to Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez in gratitude for Madrid’s aid to the municipality with a potable-water project.
Accompanied by Bolivian counterpart David Choquehuanca, Jimenez was for several hours just one more Aymara, dressed in the traditional red poncho that distinguishes community elders in the Altiplano.
Ayo Ayo, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from La Paz, was decked out in all its indigenous finery to greet the minister at the festive inauguration of the water-supply plant provided by the Bolivian NGO Adra and the Spanish International Cooperation Agency, known as Aecid.
A group of Indians wearing the traditional “aguayo,” a kind of backpack, and the typical derby-type hat, were in charge of welcoming her to the village, located almost 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level.
The women showered white and yellow paper petals over her head, hung a string of flowers around her neck and offered her a drink of local beer in a gesture of hospitality.
To the sound of flutes and drums, Jimenez and Choquehuanca proceeded down the main street of the village followed by about 500 local residents of all ages.
Once in the main square, the mayor invited the minister to preside over the scene decorated with colorful Andean blankets and the statue of Tupak Katari, the celebrated warrior who fell into the hands of the Spanish colonists and who inspired the indigenous revolution launched by Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2006.
Jimenez was visibly moved and expressed her gratitude for their show of affection. “I am very honored to be here sharing this moment,” she said.
“I feel at home, I feel so much at home that I dare to say ‘Jayayay’ (Long live) Ayo Ayo,” the minister shouted in the Aymara language after being proclaimed illustrious guest of the village.
The Bolivian foreign minister, alternating between Spanish and Aymara, praised Spain’s contribution to Bolivia for two decades in such areas as water, agriculture and education.
Spain plans to contribute some 350 million euros ($484 million) to the Andean nation between 2011-2015, according to the agreement that Jimenez and Choquehuanca signed in La Paz on Monday. EFE