By Hope Gillette / Saludify
The 2002 year will forever mark an important decision for the Latin American country of Bolivia; it is the year the country said “no” to fast food. It is the year Bolivia rejected McDonald’s.
But why did this business failure occur when more than 300 million people worldwide eat McDonald’s annually? What was it about Bolivia that made it impossible for this fast food restaurant to thrive?
According to a report from Hispanically Speaking News, the fact McDonald’s had to close its doors was no surprise–the fast food giant had been struggling in that particular nation for 14 years before finally calling it quits for 8 stores in the major cities of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
Latinos in Boliva simply didn’t seem to have an interest in the unhealthy American cuisine offered at affordable prices, but there was a definite reason why–and it had nothing to do with hamburgers.
Much investigation has gone into the failure of McDonald’s in Bolivia; it was shocking that a fast food giant so popular globally could have gone under in a busy Latin American city. But, according to a 2011 documentary Fast Food Off The Shelf: Por Que Quebró McDonald’s en Bolivia, McDonald’s, which was introduced into Bolivia in the later 1990′s, was the complete opposite of what Bolivians believed quality meals should be.
It’s not that Bolivians are against the concept of hamburgers and French fries; it’s that they are against the concept of “fast food,” believing all meals should be prepared with love, dedication, certain hygiene standards and proper cook time.
Healthy Life indicates that Bolivia rejected McDonald’s because Bolivians have a significant cultural respect for their bodies, intentionally seeking locally-prepared cuisine they are confident was prepared to their set of standards. The time it takes fast food to be prepared makes them uneasy, and most considered McDonald’s a health risk. That, coupled with a lack of friendly atmosphere according to some reports, may have been what sealed McDonald’s fate.
“The closest I ever came [to going inside a McDonald's] was one day when a rain shower fell and I climbed the steps to keep dry by the door,” A Bolivian native told Healthy Life. “Then they came out and shooed me away. They said I was dirtying the place. Why would I care if McDonald’s leaves [Bolivia]?”
To understand why Bolivia rejected McDonald’s, it is important to understand how the average Bolivian eats.
Not only are meals in Bolivia expected to be prepared with care and attention, ingredients must be simple and healthy too.
According to a report from the New York Times, Bolivia thrives on the use of quinoa, a food NASA claims is unrivaled in the plant world when it comes to nutrients.
This chenopod, related to species like beets and spinach, has been a staple in the Bolivian diet for centuries, only recently becoming difficult to obtain since the exportation has raised prices.
Hispanic Culture Online indicates Bolivians eat a lot of meat and fish but flavor their foods with the abundant natural spices and herbs found throughout the country. They often include potatoes and peppers in their dishes, and most meals have a “hot” taste to them.
In addition to these dishes, Bolivians enjoy tea, natural fruit drinks and Bolivian wine, which compliments both the highland and lowland styles of cooking.
Bolivians take such pride in their cuisine, they often reserve certain dishes for festivals only, seeing meals as a way to celebrate and enjoy the presence of friends and family.
With all of the care and thought which goes into a traditional Bolivian meal, it is no wonder Bolivia rejected McDonald’s and the company’s 2-minute pre-made meals.
Originally published by Saludify as “Why Bolivia rejected McDonald’s and what we can learn from it”