National Geographic : 1966 Feb
with a kitten or a puppy in his arms. Sue and I became, in a sense, his foster parents. One day in 1962, several years later, my son asked Ignacio when he expected to marry. "Not yet. I'm only 19-too young for girls." What's more, observed Ignacio, getting mar ried required "papers." Still 19? I asked again to see his documents. He produced only the pink card. "Does it not say I am 19?" It did, but it was dated 1954. No Identity Card, No Identity Without an identification card, Ignacio could not seek formal employment. He could not stay at hotels. He could not vote or mar ry. His freedom of movement and choice was completely circumscribed by society's de mand that he have paper proof of his exis tence as a human being. I ventured the first step of a bureaucratic minuet. First, Ignacio would need a birth cer tificate. At a tiny municipal court, a judge helped me-as he had legally helped thou sands before me-to invent the birth of a child in a certain Altiplano town, to such and-such parents. We dated it August 6, 1935. To obtain the ID card which all Bolivian males should carry, Ignacio would also need a military service record. With his tattered pink card, I applied to army headquarters. "I'm sorry," said the clerk. "This is a week end pass." Ignacio had been given the card one day in 1954 and told he could "go home." He had never returned; unknowingly, he had deserted. So I paid a fine, and Ignacio re-enlisted under his new surname. A week later, I paid a mustering-out fee to buy him out of the service. However, when Ignacio went to pick up his discharge papers, he stood in the wrong line and unwittingly re-enlisted for a two-year hitch. I paid again. On August 6, 1962, Bolivia's Independence Day, we gave Ignacio his first birthday party, with 27 candles on the cake. The next day he strutted a bit as he chatted with the door-to-door fruit vendor. "Do not doubt my age," said Ignacio. "I have papers to prove it." "Ay ... and how old are you?" "Nineteen!" THE END Smiling with love, a Quechua mother in Potosi finds pleasure in the nearness of her baby, strapped to her back in a shawl. For such little ones Bolivia struggles to improve its economy, establish schools, and raise standards of health.