One of the most famous prisons in the world is the inmate-run San Pedro, smack in the center of La Paz. Yep, I said "inmate-run". Authorities guard the gates, but within the walls of the block-sized facility, the prisoners run the operations.
About 40 minutes south of La Paz, a bizarre landscape of eroded rock and clay takes shape. Known as the Valle de la Luna, the jagged hills and crags seem to belong in a science fiction film, and not so near a major city. A small park allows visitors to explore the area from within.
We recently attended the famous Lucha Libre at a sports facility in El Alto. Bolivians are wild for wrestling. Posters of famous American wrestlers are everywhere, and you can't go a block in La Paz without seeing seeing it on a curbside television set. Bolivia doesn't have a professional league on the same level as the USA's WWE, but El Alto's Sunday afternoon Lucha Libre makes a solid substitute.
American Visa is one of the very few Bolivian novels to have ever been translated into English. A darkly humorous tale of crime and murder set in La Paz, it tells the story of Mario Alvarez's increasingly desperate attempts to get a visa to visit his son in the USA. The picture it paints of La Paz is colorful and gritty, filled with thieves, transvestites and prostitutes.
Walking aimlessly about town one sunny weekend afternoon, we happened upon a pageant called Miss Cholita Paceña 2011, just as the winner was being announced. With a grin larger than her hat, she danced about the stage, gladly receiving accolades from the crowd. We thought it was a good introduction to this random picture post, which includes a lot of other lovely things from La Paz... a soccer field with a gorgeous mountain view... the Illimani... and two Boxer dogs, handsome from the front and behind!
"Why are we walking?! There are buses which go up to Killi Killi". Aw man, don't be a such a wimp, Jürgen! We need the exercise. And it's not even all that high.
The stunning Iglesia de San Francisco was built in the 18th century, and sits at the very top of the city's main thoroughfare. After the Metropolitan Cathedral, it's the most important religious building in La Paz, and because of its advantageous position near the tourist hub of Calle Sagárnaga, probably the most well-known.
One of the more famous areas in La Paz is the Mercado de Hechecería, or The Witches' Market, found on Calle Santa Cruz and Linares, near the Iglesia de San Francisco. Here, shops and street vendors sell totems, trinkets and talismans, meant to appease the gods of sun and earth. The sheer number of shops speaks to the stubborn persistence of a religion the Catholics weren't able to uproot, despite their best, bloody efforts.
Basically, any spot in La Paz can be used a makeshift viewing point. Just raise your eyes off the ground and there's the massive Illimani Mountain towering over the southeast. Looking up towards the west provides a view of El Alto, Bolivia's fastest growing city, stretching haphazardly across the cliff. And if you drive into El Alto, the panorama of the city below is unmatched. Though La Paz itself can be grimy, polluted and uninspiring from an architectural standpoint, I doubt any other city in the world provides as many incredible picture-taking opportunities.
We've already written about the our visit to Tiwanaku for the Aymara New Year celebration. But we had so many pictures, we've had to split them up into two posts. Here's our second set of images from this amazing festival... including the sunrise, and the events which followed. Keep your eye out for Evo Morales: this is the second time we've been able to see Bolivia's president!