Landslides are perhaps the greatest danger of building a city in the mountains, especially when the mountains are composed of easily-eroded material. La Paz suffers regularly from landslides, almost all of which occur in the city’s poor, elevated areas, and many of which have a high human cost.
In March of 2011, while we were in Buenos Aires, we read about a mega-landslide in La Paz, which destroyed 400 homes and displaced 5000 people. But we didn’t pay attention to the name of the neighborhood. So when we decided on a whim to explore Pampahasi, found high on the eastern side of La Paz, we were stunned to find a road that simply dropped off into nothingness. Houses ripped into two and a vast cliff of mud and sand dropping precipitously to the field below.
Four months after the disaster, Pampahasi seemed to be regaining its footing. Before we realized that this was the neighborhood of the landslide, we had been remarking to each other how lively and interesting it seemed to be. We had just visited an incredible mirador and bought some juice-bags from one of the many street vendors in the neighborhood’s heart. And then we came upon the border of the landslide, without any warning or idea about what we’d find. Terrifying and incredible.
If you have a chance to explore one of La Paz’s more remote and interesting neighborhoods, hop on a mini-bus headed towards Pampahasi!