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Urban Dreams/Sueños Urbanos

Santa Clara University Archives :: Exhibits :: Urban Dreams / Suenos Urbanos :: Minibusses in El Alto
University Archives - Urban Dreams / Suenos Urbanos - The Cities of La Paz and El Alto - Minibusses in El Alto
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Minibusses in El Alto
  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.

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