Minibusses in El Alto, 1997
Headed out of El Alto along the avenue Juan Pablo II towards
the Altiplano, minibusses have become the quickest (and most expensive)
means for traveling between urban and rural regions. Signs on each
vehicle indicate the basic route and planned stops towards the final
destinations. This image was made near a very popular hub in northern
El Alto where residents come to catch a bus out of town. The stop
called Chacaltaya is named for a peak (not visible in the photo)
with the same name. Its popularity is due to its location near the
popular 16 de julio market where people from across the Altiplano
come on Sundays to sell their goods and produce. Two prominent landmarks
in El Alto also factor into its popularity : 1) the military base,
with an old propeller fighter plane out front, and 2) Mt. Illimani
(21,003 ft. / 6,402m), a national symbol for La Paz and its prosperity.
Since all men in Bolivia must serve at least two years in the military,
this base is home to servicemen from all over the region and country.
Nearing their 18th birthday, Aymara boys conscribe for military
service. Sometimes they are posted at this or other bases near the
capital, drawing them into the urban environment. Upon completion
of their service and this rite of passage, Aymara men either return
to their village to begin their own family; or stay in the city,
searching for employment opportunities not found in the campo.