Juliaca: the ugliest place on Earth (tribute)

road to the clouds across the hills and the forest

That’s what people in Peru says about my city. That it’s the ugliest city in Peru and a stinky hole. I couldn’t say if that’s true because I don’t know every city in Peru. Also is true that I respect the freedom of speech and if some people says that I’m not going to be violent, just I would ask for reasons for that affirmation and I’ll give my reasons what I think that couldn’t be totally true.

I love my city in the Andean Plateau with the stars so close as you can only see at 3,825 metres or 12,549 ft above the sea level; the sacred hills with our Apus with thousands of years of uninterrupted veneration; the clouds so close that you can see ephemeral landscapes in its shapes with the naked eye; the meadows with the blue and yellow flowers exploding in summer; the snow in winter and the hidden rocks and sources of water under their roots.

Of course I dislike the violence of the society, usually from newcomers from the near countryside or criminals from the capital in the coast; and the lack of urban beauty that I guess it’s due to the lack of education and the uses from people that before were in the open fields and don’t understand that to live in the city requires another mind. But also is truth that there is a certain racism from the westerner coast that would like that we were just peasants giving tribute to them so the city is like an offense to their ideas of superiority. I think in the coast as a place freeze in 1920, lol.

In the end I accept that Juliaca is ugly but comparing with the other cities I know I wouldn’t say it’s the ugliest. And it has places that I love. The hills in the photograph are at five minutes walking from my own home with the old forest and the hills now, sadly, with projects of urban development that, I’m sure, aren’t going to be in harmony with the surroundings.

La Paz, let’s play a melody for the night

let's play a melody for the night

Let’s play a melody for the night

I went some hours to La Paz, into the heart of Bolivia. I decided to be in a cheap hotel to walk a bit the city because usually I just go for a pair of hours. It was the summer of 2014, exactly in January so the heat was a bit strong, although people in the streets as the performer in the photograph was quite covered so I guess he was a foreigner, Chilean perhaps.

The photographs include views from dusk to night and a bit from the morning. I hope you find some akin to your spirit.


Towards the south is the more contemporary architecture of La Paz. There are several Bolivians of German ancestors that enriched the culture in that place with buildings of peculiar shapes. In a certain way they are like the old Bolivians (common ancestors with us Peruvians, in fact I’m half Bolivian) in the respect to the nature and the harmony of buildings integrated to the natural environment.

flame in the sky

big city and vast nature

illimani's time to rest

Illimani’s time to rest

flame in the sky

flame in the sky

concrete twilight

concrete twilight

Old downtown

The old colonial downtown was under moonlight, giving the stones part of that sense of old time. I saw a lot of people waiting for public transport. I took some photographs with care to not seen because certainly I don’t look as a tourist.

I think the city looks better in comparison to my visits as a child.



colors at night

colors at night

sad yellow lights

sad yellow lights

day of service

day of service



one for white cars and the other for colored cars

One for white cars and the other for colored cars

carnival of lights

carnival of lights

A good bye in the morning

Next day I had to be in Tiwanaku, so I just walked a few hours in the early morning and said good bye to the city.



red car goes to the yellow house and yellow bus to the red house

Red car goes to the yellow house and yellow bus to the red house

picturesque morning

Picturesque morning

And that was all. I saw a parade or protest, something usual when I was a kid but that surprised me this time. Me and my generation generally are apolitical due to the vast amount of people that used to search power with (bad) politics instead of real work. Actually there were so many protests years ago in La Paz that you can see that people is indifferent to them now. As a foreigner I didn’t approximate to them to investigate the reason of the parade or protest (haha, they could think I’m a Peruvian James Bond spying) so I took my backpack and went once more to the highway asphalt.

invisible revolution

Invisible revolution



In “Illimani’s time to rest” the big building is Alto Obrajes’s Olympic size swimming pool designed by Arch. Ricardo Pérez Alcalá.

In “Concrete twilight” the building is the Hotel Radisson Plaza La Paz designed by Argentinian atelier SEPRA.

The partial view of the bridge in “ha!” corresponds to Pasarela Pérez Velasco designed by Arch. Diego Marquez Burgos and Arch. José Marquez Pereira

In “Red car goes to the yellow house and yellow bus to the red house” the church is La Recoleta designed by Arch. Eulalio Morales.

Mythological horse race at twilight

mythological horse race at twilight

See! shapes in the light…

In the boundaries of dream and night an electric cave painting made before the time of the first horse riders.

Free spirits made of light; flying, running, shinning a millisecond before you wake up.

A time of primitive gods yelling with thunders.

A time of horses.

Picturesque morning

picturesque morning

Plaza Mayor in downtown La Paz is one of the places with the biggest number of changes. The Bolivian capital seems to always have projects there, from child to teen I remember the crowds and the books sellers, people always walking, waiting, and sometimes running. Now  it’s free of sellers and it’s bigger and quieter; with modern structures that harmonize very well with the old buildings. Actually I prefer it as a place to rest than Plaza Murillo that is the main civic plaza at the city.

The old river Chuquiyapu (called by Spaniards Choqueyapu) runs under the plaza. It seems that Spaniards in those centuries used the sources of water as sewers so they hide the rivers that in our way before colony instead had to be completely clean and the sewers cannot blend with the rivers in the cities, nor in other places. Actually water was considered a gift from our Apus (mountains)

So Plaza Mayor is a place open to the sky and with a secret river under your feet.

Last thoughts of a moribund

last thoughts of a moribund


I shot this landscape yesterday. I was actually in the ground with numb legs and arms and my head lying on a rock, a bit cold despite the summer at nearly 4000 meters or 13 000 feet of altitude. I was feeling a certain sadness because those are my lands and I’ve a great resistance, we evolved to live here; and I was there, tired and at uncertain distance to Santa Lucía city.

So I felt great relief today when I verified in google maps that actually I walked approximately 24 kilometers or 15 miles, and a part of them climbing hills in irregular ground. After that photo my members felt better and I walked some hours more until I could go in a public transport near the city. Also I get my goal to use besides digital a roll of film Portra 160 and walk the landscapes I love so much.

When kid I used to thought that dying in a place like the photograph would be nice, in silence, lucid, awake, until the stars could say you good bye and your body would be untouched by nothing, because in our culture the dead aren’t finished but just are living another life, and because that the body should be safe, but I walked again, and again, and again.

A little river in Schiarakates

The ending sunset

The ending sunset

Schiarakates (pronounced more or less she-are-ah-kah-thes) sounds a bit like Greek. It is supposedly in Pukina Arawak language, spoken once in the Andean Plateau of the lake Titicaca, but this place is in Arequipa, in the desert near the coast so it means it was created or ruled in one of the expansion of the old kingdoms from the lake. I don’t speak it, I think nobody speak it know, but it would mean “Hill of the Shimmering Heights.”

Now the place is miscalled Characato and that name has significance for the people born in Arequipa, they identify themselves with pride as Characatos. I went someday to prepare some documents for a customer and took my faithful camera to take some pics ;-)

The fields

two clouds running across the meadows

two clouds running across the meadow

If not...

if not…

Singer stream

Singer stream







In the frame a map of a world in black and white

in the frame a map of a world in black and white

The little river

I liked a lot the little stream with their vegetation and quietness. Although there was a bit of garbage what is strange because people from Arequipa uses to be quite clean in reference to public spaces. Also is truth that I saw more garbage near the highways and little streams always collect fallen objects.

Golden waterfall

Golden waterfall

The story of you with many like me

the story of you with many like me



Almost a kiss

almost a kiss

The afternoon in the countryside

the afternoon in the countryside

Little waterfall of scarlet hairs

little waterfall of scarlet hairs

threeshold to a world in darkness

Threeshold to a world in darkness (published previously)

A light that shines in the dark forest

A light that shines in the dark forest

Lost in the forest

lost in the forest

I'm a dark creature waiting in the dark side

I’m a dark creature waiting in the dark side

sunset in the empty field

sunset in the empty field

Don't dare to turn your back on me!

Don’t dare to turn your back on me!

Selfie of a shadow

selfie of a shadow

Final view

And that was all. At night dogs from the farms can be very territorial so I went back to the little city.

Sun descending to the kingdoms of the night

Sun descending to the kingdoms of the night

Misuse of the adjective “indians” for natives in Peru

shadows biding their time to cross-to our world

shadows bidding their time to cross to our world

Regularly I visit posts tagged with the word Peru. Curiously I see a trend to call us to the people in the highlands or anybody poor as “Indians”. I think that’s an unfortunate word. I consider myself Aymara because my cultural and racial group but my nationality is Peruvian, but I’d never call me an “Indian Aymara”. Certainly I don’t use to any foreigner the word “gringo” that is pejorative and show ignorance. I call people by their names and I don’t tag them by profession, religion or nationality.

The problem is this, Indian is somebody who born in the country of the  India, and when somebody use it to refers to ourselves is quite weird because usually are people from European background that call themselves as Americans (and I see myself as American, although I know US citizens see themselves as the only Americans and that’s right because everybody has their traditions) but we are Indians and that presupposes some bias:

We must to be a primitive society

And that’s a very wrong assumption, we developed our mathematics and civilization without contact with other civilizations thousands of years before Europe, our oldest known city (quite different to the even older villages) was created five thousand years ago. Today there are a lot of amateur artisans that strengthen the idea of the “good savage” but before the European invasion actually we had designers and thinkers whose products in the economy were developed in specialized workshops. The empire was planned at continental scale because we knew about topography and advanced systems in relation to the special environment. A particular obsession was the genetic manipulation in places similar to laboratories. Metallurgy, architecture, environmental management and urbanism were also careful done. Sadly the most of that ended when the fanatic, poor and destructive Spaniard invaded the empire. Spain had a genius in Cervantes, we get instead an illiterate guy as Pizarro. The End of the World already came to us with them.

In my profession I’m always innovating, I don’t consider myself a westerner so I’m not waiting what are doing in Europe or US, I also produce knowledge and rediscover the old knowledge. For example I don’t use Spaniard traditions because I don’t understand them, Spanish is just a language to trade or business, I like to read a lot about sciences, especially science in the frontiers, in high school I deduced by myself a mathematical formula trying to solve the Fermat theorem (very badly I admit) I learn about the world with my point of view.

Sometimes I think foreigners or westerners from the coast wants that we just dance like monkeys for them. Fortunately there are dances but they aren’t for tourists, they are because traditions.

here we come

here we come!

We have to be poor living in the countryside

Haha, ok, I’m poor. But I don’t want to be rich and before the invasion the highlands had very rich people, in some museums there are still the armors of gold of the leaders and in legal documents the rich persons with tens of thousands of cattle of traders at the beginning of the invasion (I don’t call it conquest because that would sound as if I was of European origin)

When people call us Indians they think we have to live in this kind of home (by the way the house in the picture is in an amazing place in my city, Juliaca):

peaceful home

peaceful home

I’d love to live there, but my profession make me go to the crowded cities. Usually when we build buildings of six or seven floors people in the coast feels anger, we should stay a primitive society or transform into westerners. And when you call us Indians you extend that harmful stereotype.

We are cholos

Spaniards called us “cholos” (or “cholas” to women) from a nahuatl word from Aztecs that means “dog”, the descendants of Spaniards use it for themselves with pride, but they use (and we among ourselves to be honest) it against us as an insult, the other insult they say us is, have a seat, Indians…

In my photographs I never use those words, I’m very respectful, for example you for me would be sir or lady, never “gringo” that in Peru usually is used in a condescending way, also thieves use it too.

to the secret place for ladies

to the secret place for ladies!

My great Grandmother dressed like the ladies in the photography above, but she was from the high society so she used gold with her traditional shawl of vicuña, and silver with her black shawl of silk.

So please, don’t call us Indians, call us Bolivians or Peruvians and if you want to highlight our cultural groups call us, the same way you would do with jews: Quechuas, Aymaras, Shipibos, etcetera.

I use traditional textiles, hats, as you can see, like anybody in the world. But people try to tag me as a westerner as if they would be doing me a favor. If I were westerner I would be proud of being one of course, but I am not.


Signed: an Indian. XD, just kidding. My name is Francis.