Blackthorn: A movie about Butch Cassidy actually filmed in Bolivia

Last night Yoli and I watched a movie called “Blackthorn.” The premise is that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were not killed at San Vincente, Bolivia in 1908. The film follows Cassidy around 1928 as he prepares to come back to the United States.

It’s a great western, with action and twists. But the best part is that it was filmed mostly in Bolivia and has Bolivian actors in it.

I have seen Robert Redford’s version of the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with Yoli, and it’s kind of pitiful the way all the Bolivia scenes were filmed in Mexico. Similar deal with the recent James Bond ‘Quantum of Solace’ film — all the Bolivian scenes were filmed in other countries, and the actors weren’t Bolivian.

“Blackthorn” shows off some of Bolivia’s most beautiful features, including the Salar de Uyuni, which I visited with Yoli in 2005. Cassidy has a ranch, possibly in Chuquisaca, and visits Potosi and Oruro among other places. The amazing landscapes and towns really make you feel like you’re in the right time period, and it also gives this western a different vibe (Bolivia has a different look than the American west).

The cast includes many Bolivians, and the story takes into account Bolivia’s history. Mining and colonialism definitely figure into it.

I can’t say enough about the film. Go rent it!

Home base

The past two days we’ve basically stayed here at El Jordán.

Yesterday was pretty much a rest-up day, and today Yoli was teaching a cross-stitch class in the afternoon.

We didn’t bring many (make that “any”) toys for the girls to play with. I like to pack as light as possible, but we still ended up bringing a good deal of luggage because Yoli brought many gifts and clothes to give away.

But we spend time playing around on the patio using an old basketball as a soccer ball. We have also been doing a lot of reading. Today we finished “Little House on the Prairie.” Jadzia had really been pushing me to read a lot chapters each day because she and Ludi wanted to begin the next book, “Farmer Boy.”

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James Bond movie set in Bolivia!

This morning, Yoli asked me eagerly if I had already read the Post-Dispatch review of the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. I had not, so I opened up the GO! Magazine and began to flip through it. I was taking my time, so Yoli began pestering me to get to the review.

When I finally began reading the review, I wasn’t sure why she was so excited about it. Then about halfway down, I realized the answer: A good chunk of the movie is set in Bolivia! Apparently the writers decided to ground the story in some reality: Bolivia’s history of water problems, like the “water war” in Cochabamba.

Of course, the producers didn’t actually film in Bolivia. They used Panama and Chile to stand in for Bolivia.

The choice of Chile is a bit of a surprise, especially when you consider where in Chile they filmed: the Antofagasta region, which was captured by Chile from Bolivia during the “War of the Pacific” in 1879. This strip of land was Bolivia’s only sea coast; losing it meant that Bolivia became landlocked.

Because of Yoli and our trips to Bolivia, I am well aware of the bad blood between Bolivians and Chileans over this issue. Bolivians have a song about it (“Recuperemos nuestro mar”), which says “We will recover our sea!” There is also a “Museo Litoral” in La Paz, a museum dedicated to the memory of their coast. I visited it in 2005.

To this day, the issue of sea access remains very thorny and comes up frequently. Though there has been a thaw in relations between the two countries recently, in my limited experience it seems that people on both sides still don’t like the others.

Apparently the producers of the film were unaware this very sore point persists. Producer Michael G. Wilson said “We knew there was a war 100 years ago, but we didn’t know it was still an issue.”

It didn’t take long for them to find out!

A former mayor of a small town in Chile was so upset to learn that his country would be standing in for lowly Bolivia, that he began staging small protests over the issue. He even drove a vehicle onto the set and interrupted filming of the movie.

I’m not much of a Bond aficianado, though I did like Casino Royale. But now it seems certain we’ll have to go see this Bond movie.

It’s not easy being green

Today I’m getting over my first (and hopefully last) bout of Montezuma’s Revenge. We’re not exactly sure what caused it. Theories range from some salteñas I ate on Sunday night to my drinking of tap water at the seminario (which I mistakenly believed was filtered).

Regardless, I’m feeling better. This was something I knew would happen eventually. From now on, I’ll be boiling all my water at the seminario and storing it in water bottles. That should help.

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