I realised in the last few weeks that I am starting to recognise different accents – the blurred consonant-free blather of Santa Cruz, the Argentinian-influenced lisps of the South, the still-largely incomprehensible Aymara-influenced Spanish of El Alto.
They were all recently represented along with lots of regional jokes in a film called Sena Quina by Paola Agazzi which told the story of three men – a Camba from the East, a Paceño from La Paz and a Tarijeño from the South of Bolivia – who try to wangle money and women as they cross the country.
Having a rather boring and non-descript English accent, I have a secret desire with a new language to imitate the coolest accent I can find. I decided during the film that it would have to be the exaggerated sing-song street talk of the Paceño: a kind of La Paz cockney with a tone that constantly suggests a mixture of surprise and indulgent happiness where you address everyone as "brother or sister" and where you frequently say that things are "fucked" but never seem too upset about it.
Fortunately my activist friend Jorge speaks almost exactly like the Paceño in the film.
Last night before catching the nightbus to Cochabamba, I decided to share my ambition with my flatmate Ceci, when in walked Jorge so I decided to tell him too, listening with great pleasure (and now with increasing attentiveness) to his response. "Aaah si…que genial hermano" (aaah right, how cool brother).
Then the door opened and in walked the actor who played the Paceño in the film. He and Jorge seemed to know each other, but the thought of two of my language role models in the room at the same time was just too much for me. Overwhelmed I paid my bill and headed to the bus station.