La Paz as an indigenous city

La Paz feels old, but not really European.
La Paz feels old, but not really European.

Throughout our time in Andean Latin America we’ve commented on how European the big cities can feel. They’ve many centuries of European history, after all, and developing middle and upper classes.

La Paz doesn’t quite fit this pattern.

Travelers and guide books alike comment on how La Paz feels like an indigenous city. Here’s a few reasons we agree:

  • Bolivia has an identifiable indigenous population which, by some measures, constitutes the majority. The Aymara, one of several different indigenous groups, are concentrated in La Paz.
  • There’s far less Western dress here; the cholitas with their distinctive dress are prominent and proud. You see indigenous dress in other parts of Latin America, but seldom in cities.
  • Supermarkets are few and far between. But there are markets that stretch for blocks and blocks. Shopping in markets seems to still be an important part of life.
  • There’s not much of a well preserved, old colonial district.

Shopping in markets and from vendors on the street is still a way of life.
Shopping in markets and from vendors on the street is still a way of life.

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