When I travel to La Paz from my hometown in Perú I use normal transport. I don’t use touristic services because they are expensive and usually the people, Peruvian or Bolivian, that has to work serving to tourists develop the bad habit to ask high prices for bad services. I take a little car at 4:00 am from Juliaca and I am in Puno more ore less at six o’clock, I spend 3.50 soles or 1.25 dollars; in Puno I take another little car to the Peruvian city of Desagüadero for ten soles or 3.5 dollars approximately, in the frontier and near 8:00 am I am crossing to the Bolivian city of Desagüadero. There I take a taxi to La Paz where I will be at midday Bolivian hour (they are one hour earlier) for 15 Bolivians pesos or 6 dollars. I pay for all that transport more or less ten dollars so it is to me very cheap. The frontier closes at night, eight pm if I’m not wrong and so I were that day in La Paz barely some hours. So this is one visit I did from midday to dusk.
PART I: EL ALTO (The High)
If you think in music I would say that El Alto is jazz mixed with native music, it is improvised, vital, and dynamic. This is a good place to buy products if one knows what to find, it is, like my city, a city of merchants. So the robbers are not tolerated and the people is always building and selling.
In La Paz I can identify two cultures that influence the architecture: the native culture (quechua and aymara), and the German culture. The Tiahuanaco shapes blends with the German way to do buildings. The latter has a great presence in the south of the city and their influence go to El Alto. To me was amazing the first time I saw Bolivians with German blood and that explained a lot of the configuration of La Paz. And I love it, certainly the colonial Spanish component of the culture was separating the people quechua and aymara against the q’aras (Spanish people), but the German component of the culture (please, be aware I am talking about culture, not about races) hasn’t that motivation so one can see its impact in the city as a whole, it has an idea more unifying.
PART II: DESCENDING TO THE HEART
The highway go deep into the city, as a Dante we descend to the heart. I am not Christian so when I mention the Divine Comedy to me is not a book of torments but the exploration of a fantastic world. La Paz has parts that make me evoke to Qosqo (Cusco), Arequipa or Puno. The tourism is making the same as other places: the food every time seems no better but the opposite, so one needs to search more. I am sure that in the places less touristic the story is different. But even thus the city is very affordable.
The taxis take you here, in the General Cemetery, and from here you can take cars to other places outside La Paz with very good prices.
Or you can go to the Buses Terminal of La Paz. This building was designed by Gustave Eiffel. And it is really pretty: It has a triangular shape but with an arched portal that gave it a human proportion, it has the dignity of an old gentleman. It was before the train station so the use now require modifications, it is not very compatible with the new functions. Fortunately La Paz has great architects that could resolve this design task, I think this building deserves it.
With the centuries La Paz has accumulated a valuable heritage. With worthy contemporary architecture but sadly also with big mistakes as Lanza Market in front of the Basilica San Francisco. But in general the city is well treated and it looks more modern and comfortable. I remember when I was a child the protests against the governments were common and much of the energy went to those activities, today with the President Evo Morales those energies are leaded to constructive projects. I don’t know so much about politics or ideologies, in fact I dislike everything that has to be related to politics, so don’t take my commentary as an ideology though but a objective fact.
PART III: THE SOUTH – CALACOTO
I understand that in Calacoto there are Bolivians from German ancestry. It is the lowest place, it is clearly ordered and organized. It has a more western aspect, and it is a proof that the culture in La Paz is dynamic in every aspect. I am sure that the rich native culture is also a reason to the dynamism of Calacoto.
I wanted to cite the designer of every building but I couldn’t find all of them. But I have the following names:
- Alto Obrajes’s Olympic size swimming pool by Arq. Ricardo Pérez Alcalá (“we want to be taller”)
- Hotel Camino Real Suites by Arq. Ramiro Muñoz Moyano (“Horizontal lines”)
- Apart Hotel Casa Grande by Arq. Ramiro Muñoz Moyano (“A sun into my body” and “The calm before the night”)
- Hotel Casa Grande suites La Paz II by Arq. Ramiro Muñoz Moyano (“E (don’t)”, “A mystery behind”, and “Fat trees”)