Life & Leisure

Bolivians celebrate their love of the classic VW Beetle

By Gina Baldivieso

La Paz, Jun 24 (EFE).- Bolivian devotees of the classic Volkswagen Beetles showed off their vehicles here Saturday in a belated observance of Worldwide VW Beetle Day.

Launched in 1995 by Alexander Gromow, co-founder of the Brazilian magazine Fusca Clube Brazil, the day commemorates the June 22, 1934, signing of a contract between the government of Adolf Hitler and engineer Ferdinand Porsche for the development of an economical “people’s car,” or Volkswagen.

This year, because June 22 fell in the middle of the week, Bolivia’s various Beetle-owners clubs decided to observe the occasion on Saturday, Haciendo Huellas (Making Tracks) club president Jose Luis Escalante told EFE.

Members of a half-dozen clubs in La Paz and neighboring El Alto took part in the parade of “Petas,” as the cars are known in Bolivia for their supposed resemblance to a local species of river tortoise.

The procession of green, yellow, red, white, and blue Beetles set out in the morning from Montes Avenue in the heart of Old La Paz and made its way across the city’s main throughfares.

Some pedestrians were surprised to see so many Petas together, as Beetles have become a less common sight since the VW factories in Brazil and Mexico halted production of the model in the first decade of this century.

Escalante owns two Beetles: Herbie, which was left at home due to lack of a driver; and Bumblebee, a yellow 1966 German-made Bug he acquired five months ago.

“They are very reliable autos,” he says. “They are unique, with air-cooled engines. It’s a vehicle that makes you love it.”

Making Tracks member Rodolfo Izurieta told EFE that Beetle owners are united by “the love for this vehicle that has become a part of the family.”

“At least 99 percent of the people who belong to clubs have the feeling that the vehicle is not only transportation for the family, rather it becomes part of the family,” he said.

Izurieta, for 22 years the owner of a red 1975 Beetle, said that he has transformed his car into a “contemporary classic” by making upgrades such as replacing the seats.

He said that the car’s simplicity make it easy repair.

“It always reaches the destination. There is always a mechanic who can give us a hand if we can’t fix it, but we always reach our destination,” Izurieta said.

Maintenance can be a challenge.

Escalante said that while replacement parts for Brazilian-made Bugs are usually available in Bolivia, he has to order the parts for his German Beetle from Mexico.

EFE gb/dr

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