Barrios de Verdad – La Paz, Bolivia

Posted on July 18, 2009 by

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.

View of the entire city of La Paz

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.

Barrio de verdad

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.

Plaza Murillo, city center of La Paz

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.

Markets of downtown La Paz

Barrioa de verdad 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.


Streets of the barrio de verdad

king her way thru the crowdA local woman along the street


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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

17 Responses to “Barrios de Verdad – La Paz, Bolivia”

  1. Jen Laceda July 19, 2009 9:57 pm #

    Oh, how I love those colourful fabrics and handicrafts! Is La Paz on high altitude?

    • Nick July 21, 2009 3:30 am #

      the bottom of the valley is about 3700m above sea level while the rest of the altiplano is about 4100m. Acclamatisation is recommended.

  2. Anil July 21, 2009 1:04 am #

    Looks impossible to navigate, how did you find your way around?

  3. Nick July 21, 2009 11:28 am #

    Bolivia is one of my favorite countries – incredible scenery and wonderful people. La Paz reminded me of Bangkok – vibrant and warm, and even better it is nestled in valley(s) amongst the Andean mountains ! I was there during the transport riots in 2005 – which were blown out of proportion by CNN…

    your blog brings back fond memories of the month i spent in the beautiful country !

  4. Nellie July 22, 2009 5:38 pm #

    Thanks guys for the comments! La Paz was definitely unforgettable, the chaos and bohemic fusion coupled with the snow mountains as a backdrop, incredible. It's one of my favourite cities in South America so far.

    Anil, navigating around the Barrio de verdad was actually quite easy. The government has done quite abit to improve the lives of the people by building walkways and concrete stairways that lead from the top of the neighbourhood all the way down to the bottom.

  5. Fly Girl July 23, 2009 4:25 pm #

    What colorful and evocative pix! Boliva appears to reflect all of the beauty and complexities that you find in most of Latin America. Thanks for the trip.

  6. Gary December 1, 2009 1:07 pm #

    Amazing photos Nellie – I'd never really thought about adding La Paz to my list of destinations but you pictures have changed my mind. What a stunning and awe-inspiring vista. I can see how you were enchanted!
    Please post more photos if you have them. I'm enjoying reading about (and seeing) your Bolivian exploits.

  7. Amanda March 12, 2010 8:33 am #

    Latin America! What an interesting culture and of course, history. I like many, I adore your ability to capture the essence of your words through the camera. This is beautifully done.

  8. Makayla Noble May 17, 2013 11:14 pm #

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own weblog and was curious what all is required to get set up? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% certain. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated. Many thanksOrangeburg Roofing & Painting, 512 Breezy Dr., Orangeburg, SC 29115 – (803) 566-8577


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