The airport in La Paz is like most other capital airports actually not located in the capital. It’s in El Alto. As if flying into the highest located capital in the world wasn’t enough. They of course had to place the airport in a flat spot and picked El Alto just above the city.
The really cool thing about landing in El Alto is that you, already from the air, will be greeted by amazing art. Getting ready to land in La Paz, I looked out the window expecting mountains – but then I looked again. Below me, on the ground, near the runway were apartment buildings completely covert in art.
Right away after arriving at my hotel, I started asking around. What’s up with the painted buildings in El Alto? Nobody seemed to know what I was talking about. What is up with that? How can you live near public art so grand that it can be seen from the sky, and not know about it? But anyway, thanks to the world wide web there were answers to be found.
Condominium building shining bright
The buildings I saw from the plane are condominiums located in the Mercedario neighborhood of Villa Adela. And they make an impression. We are talking about murals on 14 murals on 7 buildings 12 floors high, brightly colored by Bolivian artist Roberto Mamani Mamani. The project is called “Wiphala Community” and it is meant to create a sense of community in the social housing newly build by the Bolivians government, that is trying to tackle the capital’s housing deficit.
Roberto Mamani Mamani
Mamani Mamani is known for his Andes art, inspired by his Aymara origin. Initially he studied agronomy and law at the University of San Andrés, but could not let go of his love for art and ended up as one of Bolivia’s most celebrated painter.
Mamani Mamani is known for vibrant colors and cultural symbols rooted in local folklore and the beliefs of his people. He prefers to work with natural paints and pigments, painting the sun and moon, mountains, horses , condors and of course Pachamama. Each piece and each color is there for a reason, telling it’s story.
Find the murals
You should think that finding murals of this size would be easy. They are not. So when going, I recommend that you come prepared. As I said, many people in La Paz are not aware that the murals exist. I honestly do not think our taxi driver would have found them, had my husband not been able to guide him with a little help from Google maps.
Therefore when you go, make sure you have directions and if possible a little help from a map. This is what you are looking for: La urbanización El Mercedario, sector II del Distrito 4. Asking a taxi driver to take you to Puente Mercedario should get you close.