Monday, November 27, 2017

La Paz, Bolivia, November 27, 2017

I had a fantastic day!  I seem to be saying that a lot lately!  La Paz is awesome!  There is so much to see and today I went on a cable car tour with the best guide I've ever had!   I was the only one so it was like my own private tour!  Alfie never shut up the whole 3 hours and so I sure learned a lot!

La Paz has a population of 1.6 million and sits at an altitude of 3660 meters or 12,007 feet.  It was founded in 1548 by Alonzo de Mendoza, a Spaniard.  He soon seized the gold mines and became the city's first mayor.  

Before my tour, I wandered.  The public buses are fancy but not as pimped as in Guatemala-

Shoe shine men wear face masks and try to polish everything, including meshed runners-

San Francisco Church was built in 1548 by Fray Francisco de Los Angeles.  It collapsed because of heavy snowfall in 1610 and was rebuilt between 1744 and 1753.  In the front above the altar are mirrors that the Spaniards used outside the church to entice the Incas in because they had never seen themselves-

The outside architecture is so intricate and to incorporate Inca culture, they used animals and fruit-

There were protests most of the day. They blocked traffic, yelled and hollered.  Apparently the engineering college doesn't think they need to study for the required number of years, so they're hitting the streets.  They walk for hours.  Each participating member must pick up a chip from the organizers and bring the chip to the next meeting to prove they attended the rally.  If they don't have a chip, they are fined.  Protests are a daily occurrence in La Paz-

While waiting for my tour to start, I visited the mercado.  It's massive and most shops don't open until the afternoon.  The baker said everything was 'fresco', but by the taste of what I tried, she was lying-

There are numerous restaurants in narrow container type rooms.  The owner has enough food to feed about 25 people and when the food is gone, she shuts her doors.  People crowd around the narrow table-

Fresh juices are also available-

One area is nothing but flowers-

I love how they present these roses-

Finally 10 am arrived and my tour began.  Our first stop, after taking a collectivo most of the way to the cable car station, was the former train station which has been converted into the red cable car station-

Five lines are open:  red, blue, yellow, green and purple.  By 2025 there will be 11 lines.  This is their version of a metro.  They're unable to have a subway because there are 117 rivers running under the city-

It costs 55 cents to ride the cable car-

Building it was not without its problems.  Anyone who was going to have it pass over their home was naturally upset-

One of the many protests-

The riot police made sure nothing got out of hand-

We passed over the La Paz Cementario.  People are buried within 24 hours of dying.  They are put into a slot for free for 2 years, after which time the family must either pay for longer storage or the body gets cremated for free.  If the ashes aren't picked up, they will be put in a pile with all the other uncollected ashes-

La Paz is a city of either very rich or very poor people.  Minimum wage is about $400 Canadian/month which is enough to survive.  Bread costs .50 bolivianos and when there was talk it was going up to .60, there were massive protests because people could not afford that.  Unions are very powerful and the biggest one is the coco leaf farmers.  Coco leaves are consumed massively to combat altitude sickness.  

Homes of the poor-

A few years ago there was a car accident involving 6 people.  The car went off the road and somehow ended up trapped in a ravine-

The six people lived, however the driver had his legs amputated to get him out of the car-

Upon arrival in El Alto, we visited the witch's market.  Across the street is a Catholic Church that has incorporated Inca symbols in its design.  Notice the evil eye above the entrance-

At the witch's market is a monument of frogs.  If frogs live in your yard, there must be a lot of oxygen so you too will be healthy.  They are sitting on the Inca cross.  The top row of the cross is for the afterlife, the middle row for the now and the bottom row for hell-

There are many witches who perform miracles-

They each have a fire pit-

where they burn eucalyptus and offerings made of sugar.  You can buy multipacks of sugar asking for money, love, good health etc.-

or individual offerings- 

The witch builds a fire, then puts the sugar offerings on top.  She walks around the fire, sprinkling wine which represents blood.  To conclude, she sprinkles sugar around the whole fire to keep everything inside-

This witch is very popular because she always has a lineup.  It costs 1000 to 3000 bolivianos to see her.  That's $184 - $552 Canadian/visit-

Mocha chinchi is made using peaches.  It's a sweet energizing drink without sugar added but is still very sweet.  The peach stone sits in the bottom-

The views from the cable cars are awesome-

People don't finish their buildings because as long as the top floor isn't completed, you don't have to pay property taxes for 10 years.  So, families give their buildings away to other family members after 10 years so they can continue to avoid taxes for years.  Property owners were pissed off with the cable car going over their property but one way to appease them was to put an advertisement on the roof.  This way they make money-

Under 99% of all homes in the city is a buried llama foetus for good luck-

The Triple Bridge took a lot of time off of people's commutes to La Paz-

However, a homeless person was buried alive underneath the pillar with the condor painted on it.  If the contractors of the bridge knew his/her family, the family would have received money.  If the person was alone, they would have been tricked somehow before they met their fate.  City hall has never denied this happened-

We got on the green line and went to Zona Sur or South Side, a suburb of La Paz that is very different- 

because buildings are more North American: higher, with yards and pitched roofs-

On the way there are poorer areas-

but then we crossed over a gated community.  This unfinished home has been for sale ever since the cable car went in-

These homes are massive and they have lawns which is special and expensive because of the climate: it takes a lot of work to grow grass-

Over the hill on our way down to Zona Sur, it was like a different world.  There's a modern mall and few collectivos.  In La Paz, there's a collectivo for every person!  People actually own cars in Zona Sur and it's against the law to set up a booth of any kind on the sidewalk-

On our way back to our starting point in a collectivo, we just made it in front of the protest-

After the tour, I went for lunch in the mercado-

where I ordered Milanesa, the daily special.  It included a delicious beef pasta soup- 

salad, a chicken cutlet and a fried platano for $1.84- 

The cook was pretty grumpy but her cooking was rico-

After lunch, I went to San Pedro Prison.  I just started reading Marching Powder, a true story written by an Australian, Rusty Young, about Thomas, the king pin in the prison.  Whole families live here in rich apartments with jacuzzis.  Kids can leave to go to school and spouses can go to work.  They manufacture cocaine and it's put into a Pamper and thrown out a window.  Those in the know pick up the diaper and sell it!  People can enter the prison with a bribe for the guards-

The main doors-

I took a picture of some of the prisoners before the guards told me I couldn't.  There were quite a few people entering with bags of food and other items for the inmates-

After leaving the prison, I headed for the Cementario.  Luckily, I saw a zebra.  They're hired by the government to hang out on the streets and teach driver safety-

The La Paz Cementario-

People really personalize the tombs-

The notice explains that the family has only a certain amount of time to either pay for more storage or the body will be cremated-

Cleaning and adding to a tomb-

Carlos Palenque Aviles was a politician who helped the poor.  Locals pray in front of his grave.  He died at 52 from a heart attack-

Bolero hats have a long tradition.  Apparently the Spanish brought them for the men but they were too small so women started wearing them.  Today they cost anywhere from $184 to $550 Canadian so are worn for prestige.  If they're on straight, that means the woman is married.  If they're on slanted to the side, the woman is widowed or single.  Also, the women wear large skirts that make them look quite fat but it's only layers underneath to imply they are fertile.  Of course, the tradition of cholitos: traditional dress, is dying.  Younger women want to dress like Westerners.  

Women of La Paz-

Women carry an aguayo blanket like a purse on their backs-

I had a great day and have booked biking on the Death Highway for tomorrow!  Looking forward to it, I think!

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