Bright murals greet visitors to poor Bolivian neighborhood
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — A state-sponsored project in Bolivia is aiming to use urban art to capture some of the rich traditions of indigenous culture and turn an area into a tourist attraction.
The project involves adorning homes with murals and was carried out by residents of a poor neighborhood who have sought inspiration from Andean textiles.
Images now include indigenous Aymara women selling produce and spices in the streets, hummingbirds taking flight and multicolored geometrical shapes on what once were plain adobe and brick walls on a hillside of Bolivia’s capital.
“When we wake up in the morning, we now see colors. We no longer see the adobe or brick. I love my view,” said Tomasa Gutiérrez, who heads the Chaulluma neighborhood council. She stood in front of a mural that read “Libertad” — Spanish for “Liberty” — and included paintings of “cholitas” indigenous women wearing the traditional billowing skirts, embroidered shawls and bowler hats.
“We’ve decided that our homes should show who we are, our customs, our culture,” she said.
Chaulluma is located about 12,500 feet (3,800 meters) above sea level and it’s reached by a steep staircase known ominously as “The 1,000 steps.”
The high-altitude exercise leads to a majestic view of the snow-capped Illimani peak that towers over the mountain-locked Bolivian capital. Less ambitious visitors can ride a cable car that connects La Paz to its sister city of El Alto.
The $4.5 million mural project called “Mi Qhatu” — “market” in Aymara — includes about 160 homes and is based on an initiative in Mexico’s Hidalgo state, said Pablo Balanza, the coordinator of the National Fund for Productive and Social Investment.
The residents-turned-painters are guided by four urban artists and about 50 masons who have also made home renovations, including strengthening once-crumbling walls.
The project director, urban artist Knorke Leaf, said the murals seek to “bring joy” and attract tourists by showcasing the personality of Chaulluma’s people, who are mainly artisans and vendors who migrated to the neighborhood from the countryside.
“They painted my little home,” said Eusebia Huanca, who has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years. “They brought joy to me.”