Entering the capital city of Bolivia through its highways, one is treated to an awe-striking view of millions of dwellings built atop the steep slopes surrounding La Paz. Most of the buildings are literally half-built, simply held together by bricks and cement (we were told that this was the way they cut cost) – this is where majority of the locals live.
Stumbling upon these neighborhoods named rightfully ‘barrios de verdad’ (neighborhood of the truth), we found ourselves winding through unchartered grounds. Instead of gangsters and dangers that many warn us about, we found innocent faces and warm smiles. This is where real Bolivian life speaks for itself.
The Cordillera Real (Royal Mountain Range) flank both sides of the sprawling city of La Paz, which is built in the valley. Gregarious snow-capped mountains overlook the city with its sheer height and power. Walking amidst the cobble-stoned paths of La Paz, you can see the steeply sloping streets inclining towards the valley edges. In the city’s main square, Plaza Murillo, middle class Bolivians sit and watch time go by as pigeons fill up the colonial style square.
Along El Prado, the city’s main street where tall buildings and major activities congregate, one can feel the hustle and bustle of the cosmopolitan city. Everything seems to be alright, Bolivia definitely seems to be doing ok.
That is, until you look into the faces of the people, into the economy and political being of the country. In ‘barrio de verdad’, there are no pretences nor hiding from the truth. You find Bolivians the way they are. Houses are basic, with a rooftop over their heads, a barely leaking tap and a pig in their backyard. The residents of ‘barrio de verdad’ stared blatantly as us as we wandered around in their territory. Foreigners are only seen in ‘tourist cafes’ or the city centre, not in the slumps they live in.
But still, they struggled a smile, and watched oddly as we took further steps in their world. Into a world that was a struggle for them, yet intriguing to us.
- Photoblog: Lagoons, Sierras and Salt Flats of Uyuni, Bolivia
- Andean Villages of Northern Argentina
- Horse-riding in Cordoba, Argentina
- Masterpiece of Nature – the Iguazu Falls