EDITORIAL BY Sara Shahriari
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.
ARTICLES FROM THIS ISSUE
24 Mar, 2015 | Nick Somers
A Photo essay by Nick SomersWhat is it that you need? Ingredients for your favourite meal, new furniture to match freshly painted walls, a new shirt for a night out at the bars? Perhaps that one speci...
24 Mar, 2015 | Ali Macleod
Hidden in the witches´ market , burnt offerings bring fortune and well-being in Bolivia´s traditional mesas Money in La Paz can buy you large houses in the Zona Sur, 8 courses of Michelin-star-quality...
YOLO I´m in Bolivia!
24 Mar, 2015 | Matilda Curtis
¡Hola! I’m currently on my gap year, travelling through South America. I’ve really liked being in La Paz so far. It’s actually not that different from West London, and most of the cafés have wifi. I’v...
Coca: It’s Not Just Cocaine
24 Mar, 2015 | Oliver Neal
A licit market is slowly expanding for the Andes’ most iconic—and demonized—plant. The first clear liquor scorches the back of one’s throat but nicely warms the stomach. It’s known as Spirit of Coca...
TRANSPORTING A CITY
24 Mar, 2015 | Phoebe Roth
La Paz’s new cable-car transit system is changing the commute of both paceños and alteños—and transforming the city. Arriving in La Paz, one of the first things I noticed was the teleférico, the cable...
100 Bolivianos: The Journey of a Note Through La Paz
24 Mar, 2015 | Ali Macleod
Guards with guns, blood-dripping cow carcasses, and unwashed tourists—all witnessed through the journey of a hundred bolivianos, from the cashpoint as a crisp note to a roadside kiosk as a handful of...