American Visa
Juan de Recacoechea

It was my friend Lotus who brought this fantastic book in light for me with her fantastic review (that you can read here). Of course I immediately added it on my wishlist and few months later my wish has been fulfilled.

Since I live in the country whose citizens until recently needed visas to go in majority of countries (mostly the ones that, as Recacoechea called them “First World Countries”) I’m very familiar both with the value of having visa in your passport and all hell you have to survive to get one. Especially if you’re asking visa for the first time because once refused, you’re marked not only for getting visa for that specific country but for many others as well. So it was painfully familiar and so alive the fear of the main protagonist when talking about possible rejection in the embassy and its consequences.

I was reminded on my own experience when I was about to get my first Schengen visa. It was in Spanish embassy and it supposed to be pro forme, nothing complicated: I had all my papers (all in perfect order), I was fellowship holder by Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had letter of recommendation from the Institute Cervantes (as their student), had invitation letter from the University in Santander-Spain, had letter that confirms that all mu costs (accommodation, food, classes) are covered with the scholarship, had round trip plane ticket Belgrade-Barcelona… so the only missing paper was personal letter from the King Juan Carlos himself! Anyway that wasn’t enough. They were asking me papers that didn’t exist. And huge amount of them. To cut the story they finally gave me visa one hour before my flight! I was in the embassy with all my stuff no knowing will I spend the night in my bed in Belgrade or in Barcelona. That was one of the most humiliating experiences in my life. I told to myself that I’ll not let this to happened again and luckily all following experiences with visa were not nearly like that one.

The other thing Recacoechea is mentioning in his novel is that even if you manage to have visa in your passport that doesn’t mean that the clerk/policeman at the airport will let you in the country. They have all right to tell you “No. Go back!” I did have not one but two visas in my passport, the first one was flawed so they gave me second one and cancelled the one with mistake. OF COURSE I was suspicious… I was trying to explain her (the officer at the airport) the obvious but that was never-ending fight until I said that I’m Fellowship holder of Institute Cervantes. Then she slowly raised her eyes with facial expression I doubted she could even have, she stamped my passport, all of a sudden my Spanish is beautiful, she expressed hope that I’ll enjoy my visit, advised me what should I see before continue my journey to Santander, and she hoped that will not be my last visit to her country. She made me mute (I must have looked like retarded) and I was IN!

Anyway “American Visa” is genre I don’t usually read. It’s sort of detective story (although without detectives lol) influenced by Chendler, main characters’ favourite author but nevertheless it was very interesting and hard-to put-down story (not the same with writing this post since I finished with this book several months ago). This was first Bolivian novel I’ve ever read and I was quite surprised how urban and modern it is. I guess I expected some sort of South American exotic story but what I got was even better; bunch of all sorts of souls on high altitude: prostitutes, thieves, murderers, transvestites, corrupted politicians, high class and the ones at the very bottom. And then there’s the main character, a teacher who’s trying to reach USA and join his son and is capable to do whatever it takes to reach that goal. And it does taking a lot if you live in the country that economy is based on cocaine. You must wonder yourself whether you should feel sympathy toward him or just morally disqualifying him. I guess the environment can transform people into something they never thought they can be. And I’m sure, nor would they want to be.

It’s an interesting story, quite intense about one personal story but also about one country hidden high in the clouds and forgotten by the rest of the world.