Everything that’s possible with a heart.

Teresa Ardaya

Depending on the context (with all of its nuances and particularities) a word can take on different meanings. The connotation of a word can reflect a certain cultural significance and it can give us an idea of the personal characteristics of a speaker.

Under this pretext, it is especially interesting to find out what the word ‘heart’ invokes in Bolivians. Love, joy, happiness and romance would seem like common and uninteresting responses. But additionally, it might surprise you to discover that when a Bolivian hears the word ‘heart’ they also think of food.

What could possibly be the relationship between the tacky red heart in the hands of a giant stuffed bear and the gastric juices of a stomach dying of hunger?

How could someone think about the joy of being in love and a delicious peanut sauce at the same time?

Easy: among the variety of foods one can find on the streets of Bolivia, there is the famous ‘anticucho,’ prepared with cow heart, hot sauce and potatoes.

So, a heart is more than just a symbol of romance: it can be tasted, savored, chewed and cooked over a flame at the beginning or end of a cold night.

It’s not like Bolivians necessarily associate both meanings all the time, but it’s not uncommon. For example, you could reminisce upon that lover who broke your heart and who you once shared an anticucho with. In this case, it may be that the smoke and delicious aroma of roasted meat make us cry for love.

Furthermore, considering that anticucho is among Bolivia’s most traditional and popular dishes, it’s easy to understand why, in the mind of a Bolivian, a properly seasoned cow’s heart fits perfectly in the same category as emotion and passion. Of course, the context will determine which connotation is being attributed.

Yet, perhaps there is no reason to have to choose. Isn’t the flavor of roasted potatoes and peanut sauce not representative of a passion as fundamental as any other? Life without passion is as sad as an anticucho without peanut sauce and knowing how to love is as important as cooking a heart to the point of perfection and with just the right amount of spice.

You can love and wish with all your heart and you can also eat all the heart on your plate after smelling its aroma and finding yourself unable to resist the temptation. No one understands this better than a Bolivian who knows the flavors of their country.

To conclude, whether it be food or love, in Bolivia we have many examples of everything a heart represents. Just take a look at the expressions people use: “I’m Bolivian at heart”, “I say it from my heart”, “I give you my heart” and, of course… “Let’s go eat some tasty anticucho.”

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