May 27 – Mother's Day in Bolivia

Posted on May 27, 2017

Ho-hum, another Mother's Day in May...

Loads of countries around the world celebrate Mother's Day, and a lot of those celebrations are in May. I already wrote about Dia de la Madre in Mexico (which is always held on May 10), but there are quite a few nations that celebrate on the first Sunday in May, loads that celebrate on the second Sunday in May, quite a few that celebrate on the last Sunday in May, several that celebrate on specific dates in May, no matter what day of the week, and of course some that celebrate at other times of the year.

Anyway, I knew all of this, and sometimes I wondered, "Why May?" I mean, May is a very nice time of the year in some places - late spring, lots of flowers around to give Mum - but of course, many nations are tropical (flowers all year long, I imagine), and many nations lie in the Southern Hemisphere, and so May is late autumn, not late spring (and nations such as Australia and New Zealand still celebrate Mum in May).

But today I discovered that Bolivia has a super sad reason to celebrate mothers in May.

Back in 1812, when the various regions of South America were fighting against Spain for their independence, the Spanish army led by Brigadier General Goyeneche had squashed down rebelling forces in Cochabamba (now part of Bolivia). Then Goyeneche led his victorious army elsewhere, to battle other independence fighters. He heard that the Cochabamba rebels didn't stay beaten - they were revolting again! So he doubled back and killed many more of the South Americans.

With so many of their husbands, brothers, and fathers dead or dying, the women of Cochabamba rose up and fought against Spain. They followed a very old blind woman named Manuela Gandarilla as she took a stand on a hill called La Coronilla.

I wish I had a happy ending for you, but Goyeneche's army didn't mind killing women - even old, blind women - and the Spaniards defeated the mothers of Cochabamba just as they had the fathers.

Bolivia finally achieved independence in 1825, and Bolivians soon declared May 27 a day to celebrate all moms, in homage to the "Heroinas de Coronillas."

Apparently this holiday is big-time - possibly the most important holiday in Bolivia other than Christmas. Not only do florists have the biggest sale day of the year, but bakeries do, too. Not only do people honor and send gifts to their own mothers and grandmothers, many honor all of their friends who are mothers as well, along with aunts, cousins, sisters, etc. Hand crafted gifts are common, and many perform poems and songs and plays created especially for the women in their life.

Bolivian Mother's Day sounds great - but, while I'm thrilled that the date was chosen to honor some very brave women, I am so sad to know that these long-ago heroes paid with their lives!

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