Those who follow my blog know, or have figured out, that I am of Bolivian descent. Papi came to the states in the early 1960s, and brought my Mami over on their wedding day in 1966. I know that they both brought cositas (small things) with them to give a Bolivian toquecito (touch) to their new American home. These familiar items - among them an aguayo, a monolito, pictures of the cantuta and the city of La Paz, and many, many record albums of Bolivian music - were how I came to learn about my ethnicity.
My love for Bolivia grew during my childhood, kindled by my father's determination to take my siblings and me there every summer. The months of July and August were an endless adventure of cousins, day trips, family celebrations, music, succulent foods, sunshine, Sunday mass with the abuelitos (grandparents), and every eye-popping color of the rainbow. My childhood was rich for those experiences.
The Ekeko, pictured here, was also an object of "Bolivian-ness" I recall seeing now and then while growing up. Relatives would give these small dolls to my family as we left to come home to New Jersey. This little guy carries tiny possessions, miniature foods, and paper money - all symbols for the things we hope to never have to do without.
My parents recently returned from a trip to Bolivia, and brought back my very own Ekeko. Only this time, it's the female version of the small god - an Ekeka. She carries of course food, clothing, money, as well as kitchen tools, and a cell phone. She also rides a bike, holds her baby under one arm, and carries her husband on her back. A small dog runs by her side.
I love this cosita and place her on my bookshelf. She makes me smile. I imagine she's also lugging a laptop somewhere in her bundle, a bunch of books, bread and chocolate, and of course an iPod loaded with the heart-filling music of Bolivia.