Baby Jesus smiles again at Bolivian artisan at Christmas

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) – The smile of the child Jesus looks wide and contagious like that of the craftsman who painted it so that this figure made of plaster reaches Bolivian homes with a message of hope and peace after two years of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, the child Jesus smiled again at Ramiro Suxo, 57, because the Christmas spirit is slowly recovering and with it the Bolivians buy the plaster representations of the birth together with the entire family and the three Wise Men .

“People still believe, there is hope … the pandemic has affected us a lot, but we continue to move forward,” Suxo told The Associated Press a few days before Christmas.

Motivated by his Catholic faith, Suxo – together with his wife Esperanza Marca in their small workshop in the city of El Alto, neighboring La Paz – managed to sell 400 sets of nativity scenes with all the Christmas characters. Although he assured that the activity has not yet fully recovered and has not reached the 1,000 games it sold in 2019, he hopes that next year will be better.

“I have faith in my births, in my work … (since) I was 11 years old, I have been that child selling my merchandise, my handicrafts. You imagine! (from) that child to this age I have lived with this work, “said the craftsman.

Suxo, who smells like fresh paint, is one of thousands of artisans who have been affected by the pandemic, but also by the political problems Bolivia has faced in recent times.

This year the lights in streets and squares attracted dozens of people who took photos with their children, unlike in 2020, when people were still afraid to leave their homes. Giant trees and baby Jesus births have been placed in the central squares.

“I feel very happy because we can finally go out on the streets, we are no longer locked up and the children can enjoy Christmas as well as all the people we feel happy,” said Daniela Gutiérrez, who attended with her two children to turn on the lights of the Christmas tree in Plaza Murillo, in the center of La Paz, where the Government Palace is located.

“Merry Christmas everyone!”

Meanwhile, María Mamani commented that her son is experiencing his first Christmas. “I feel very happy, it is a joy for all the people, especially for the children,” he said.

Bolivia is going through a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections. So far, more than 554,999 infections and 19,330 deaths have been reported in the Andean nation, according to data from the Ministry of Health. While vaccination covers 57.5% of the population over 16 years of age.

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