La Paz, a city between colonial splendour and mundane fate of many of its residents, that fascinates everyone interested in absolute contradictions. I have seen a little girl dancing to the folklore from yesterday’s Bolivia played by an even older cassette recorder just to get some Bolivianos from retirees from the western world with current state of art DSLR Cameras.
An old couple play songs that stem from a time before they went blind. He plugs the guitar, she sings to the ¾ polka-rhythm. Streetdogs struggle for something edible and sex-mates, defend, mark their territory. In the historical centre locals pull cultivated mini-dogs through the high streets. The dogs are not even able to climb stairs but are dressed with cute little jumpers.
The higher you look onto the steep hills surrounding the city, the poorer its people get. Day after day there is a sheer endless flow of them in the touristic areas. They earn money with everything and everybody. No one is set to give up, many are creative and cope with what fate has brought about, regardless of their scarce income.
In the party and backpacker district you can see people sitting on the streets offering handmade souvenirs, alpaca textiles, colourful trousers (everyone should get one), music and many illegal things.
The witch market is just a few blocks above. There they sell elixirs that guarantee more love, money or health. They dry lama fetuses to offer them to mother earth, of course free of pain for the animals. Probably, this is astro channel 1.0, analogue and full of smells and rites which make you regret if you cannot speak at least a little bit of Spanish to ask.
Another few blocks higher you can get lost in the labyrinth of markets separated in vegetables, meat, canned goods and tools. Women sit silently in traditional dresses and wait for the next customer und peel another bag of peas. Here one could live very cheap and probable more healthy than in Europe. Almost everything is organic and self-cropped. La Paz is a big market.
The rich La Paz lives of the tourists and backpackers. This La Paz showcases its colonial splendour, is clean and has the right cuisine for everyone to offer. I can recommend some tasty spots.
The art scene is lively. At Calle Jaen (Street) you will explore finest handcraft, art galleries side by side with stores for vegan cuisine and esotericism.
Workday’s most frequented streets are a complete mess, cars and mini busses honk more than they actually drive. A few times a year these streets are open for pedestrians, cars are banned, festivals celebrated.
That metropolis is colourful, probably too colourful to really get to know it for the most of us.