La ciudad esta cambiando: the city is changing, growing, developing. This slogan which we notice posted around different parts of the city of El Alto comes to life every day.

The mini-buses honking. The dogs barking. The sounds of construction, clanging of bricks. The hustling and bustling of businessmen and women, vendors, school children, and youth in La Ceja, where all the buses in El Alto seem to pass through. The smells of fried foods and baked goods.

El Alto is one of the fastest growing cities in Bolivia, consisting mostly of Aymara campesinos who migrated from el campo, the surrounding rural areas, to the city. It is situated at over 4,000 meters above sea level on the Altiplano region of Bolivia. It is also home to the world’s highest international airport. The city of El Alto is situated on the plain which overlooks the capital city of La Paz, which is built in a valley surrounded by mountains.

The view of La Paz

The view of La Paz from El Alto

Snow-capped mountains soaring in the distance. Red and yellow cable cars connecting the two neighbouring cities. The view from above looking down onto the city.

We’ve been told by those abajo (below) in La Paz to be careful arriba (above) in El Alto, there are ladrones (robbers) and borrachos (drunks). We’ve also been told by those arriba (above) in El Alto to beware of youngsters dressed in suits like those abajo (below) in La Paz. Stereotypes and prejudice remain between the two neighbouring cities. There are differences in living conditions between both cities, but neither is uniformly rich or poor, diversity is present everywhere.

Things are changing. La ciudad esta cambiando.

More and more obras (works) are promised for the development of the city of El Alto. Yet still today, stepping in the downtown core of La Paz is like stepping into another world; so different from the reality we live in with our host families in El Alto. The architectural remains of the era of Spanish colonialism taint La Paz while the impact of the Spanish dress mixed with and influenced by indigenous Aymara traditions are present in El Alto.

A polished elderly man with fashionable glasses walks the well-kept streets of Sopocachi, trendy neighbourhood in La Paz. A beautifully dressed cholita with her long colourful skirts, black braids, and felt sombrero, speeds along the busy street of a local market in El Alto, her multi-coloured aguayo (a weave used as a backpack) on her back carrying her purchases. A youngster of Aymara origin with a brand-name backpack and trendy hipster glasses who goes back and forth between La Paz and El Alto, to work and study.

Things are changing. Mi ciudad esta cambiando.

La ciudad esta cambiando

Mi ciudad esta cambiando