Rail: What kinds of opportunities exist in Bolivia today for writers, journalists and novelists, as compared to 20 years ago?
Recacoechea: Well, now it’s easy to publish. There are many people publishing, but the writers have to pay to publish their own novels. You write a novel, you pay for it. So there are hundreds of novels going around. But to be published without paying for it yourself? That’s very difficult. Only a few can do that, myself and maybe four or five others. So it’s difficult. And the money’s no good. You get 10% of the royalties, but you never really know how much they sell, because of the black market and all the black market editions, ediciones truchas. They say American Visa sold 13,000 copies, but what about the other books that are sold on the black market? There were 13,000 copies sold legally, but maybe 30,000 sold altogether. They print them in Peru, you know. It’s impossible to control.
Rail: Let’s talk about American Visa. Your protagonist, Mario Alvarez, commits robbery and murder to pay for his American visa. Why is obtaining an American visa such a difficult yet desirous—sometimes desperate— thing for some Bolivians to do?
Recacoechea: It was not always difficult to get a visa for the United States until the Second World War. It was more difficult to get a European visa. All Latin Americans could come to the United States without a visa. After the ’60s or ’70s maybe, it got more difficult to get a visa because so many people were coming to the United States. After the 1952 Revolution in Bolivia, the high bourgeoisie started coming here. They didn’t go to Europe because in Europe the salaries were very low. So they came here and lived in Washington, San Francisco, LA, San Diego, San Jose, New York. Many many people came here. Now, people in Bolivia are going to Spain. But that’s more the lower classes—people who are not educated, like hairdressers and waitresses. Now, when you go to a café, and you say, “Where is Maria who always serves me?” They say, “Oh, she is in Spain.” Read More
Please visit SPLALit aStore
Latin American Literature