the latest and by far the most literal sign that
times are changing in Bolivia, the numerals on the clock that
adorns the congress building in La Paz have been reversed and
the hands set to run anticlockwise in proud affirmation of the
Andean nation's "southernness".
According to Bolivia's foreign minister, David Choquehuanca, the horological initiative is intended to help Bolivians rediscover their indigenous roots.
"We're in the south and, as we're trying to recover our identity, the Bolivian government is also recovering its sarawi, which means 'way' in Aymara," he said. "In keeping with our sarawi or Nan, in Quechua our clocks should turn to the left."
Warming to his theme, Choquehuanca added: "Who said clocks always have to run the same way? Why do we always have to be obedient? Why can't we be creative?"
minister also revealed that delegates at the recent G77 and China
summit in Bolivia had received the reverse clocks as presents.
As well as running anticlockwise, he said, the desk clocks bestowed
on visiting dignitaries were in the shape of the Bolivian map
and included the coastal territories that the country lost in
its 1879 war with Chile.
Clocks are an evolution of the sundial, and in the northern hemisphere a sundial's shadow runs clockwise, while in the southern hemisphere it moves counterclockwise making the modern clock a representation of light in the northern hemisphere.
Wednesday a small crowd outside the congress building was eyeing
the new clock.
"This is a good change, because we have to respect our identity. It's easy to read, I came to see the clock and I'm already used to it. All the clocks on the continent should be like this one, " said Germán Quispe Mamani, a street vendor.
Others were more sceptical: "There's going to be a lot of confusion, because we're not used to reading the clock like that." said Reina Peñaciel Blanco.
The clockface volte-face is not the first time a leftwing Latin American nation has played with time in recent years.
2007, the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez put Venezuela's
clocks back half an hour in an attempt to get Venezuelans biologically
more in tune with the sun.
The previous year, Chávez decided that the white horse on the country's coat of arms ought to gallop to the left instead of the right to better express the aspirations of his Bolivarian revolution.