RELEASE DATE: 01 Mar, 2015

EDITORIAL BY Sara Shahriari

Ice cream, a donkey, a sweatshirt or fi ve kilos of bananas - wandering El Alto’s twice-weekly 16 de Julio market is an extraordinary onslaught of commerce where a mind-boggling variety of items are for sale. It’s the diversity and energy of these markets that attracted the BX team to this issue’s theme: commerce.

For most residents of La Paz and El Alto going to market involves a long-term web of relationships between buyers and sellers. It’s clear every time you hear the word casera, which connotes a personal, but commercial, relationship between the two. Many people don’t go to a mega-store to buy food, car parts or get their shoes repaired - they go to their casera, who can be trusted to make sure that steady clients are getting the best quality at the best prices.

This month our team explores the world of these vendors, including the unions and organizations - some of them very powerful - that both manage and defend the world of informal commerce across the country. We also scour the markets of El Alto to fi nd out if it would be possible to build a car from scratch using the plethora of parts for sale, take a photo journey through some of La Paz and El Alto’s most fascinating commercial spaces, and explore how the cities’ new cable car system aff ects vendors and commuters alike.

Many Bolivians are enjoying increased spending power these days, and that means luxury items like the dazzling jewels and silky soft alpaca shawls worn by some indigenous women are in high demand. To fi nd out about these beautiful and expensive items our writer visited a cholita modeling school, where young women train in the art of displaying this covetable style. But prosperity of any sort is a delicate state, and in order to gain or maintain it, respect should be paid to the Pachamama, or Mother Earth. In order to honor her, people purchase elaborate mesas, which are combinations of sweets, herbs, wool and llama fetuses, and can cost hundreds of dollars.

Of course there are also many people struggling to make ends meet. Th is month we visit with a brand new program in one of La Paz’s prisons for women, to learn how a new bakery is bringing hopes of fi nancial security.

Many women, despite being incarcerated, are still trying to support their children inside or outside of prison walls, and they need work and new job skills in order to that. Soon this bakery will open a window to the outside word that could improve their economic situation and ability to support their families and themselves.

Cash, tourism, clothes, coca, and wealth and poverty we’re thinking about it all this month, so please step with us into the dynamic world of commerce.



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