October 01, 2008

Bolivia: Copacabana popcorn

After visiting the Island of the Sun, legendary birthplace of Inca civilization, Adam and I continued by boat across Lake Titicaca to Copacabana, Bolivia. The Cordillera Real, a spine of 20,000-foot Andean peaks that includes the giants Ancohuma and Illampu, rose in its vast whiteness from the opposite lakeshore.
Meanwhile, in Copacabana, vast whiteness of a different kind: popcorn.

An entire street near the town's central square and basilica was lined with popcorn ladies selling their white wares from tables set under makeshift awnings.

Each popcorn seller commanded a monstrous mound of the crackly kernel, and almost all the ladies' inventories were cradled inside crisp, baby blue bedsheets knotted on three sides. Colored plastic bags filled with corn sat atop the mounds, ready to go.
For about 30 cents, I bought Adam a bag that was, at the time, almost as big as he was (and took five days to eat).

There's no way, I thought, as we left Popcorn Street, that those ladies sell all that popcorn in the course of a day. Which made me imagine this scene: 20 popcorn sellers packing up at dusk, tying their blue bedsheets tight around their product, and filing in a quiet line out of town, humping the popcorn up into the hills to their homes.

And in the morning, humping it back down.