Sopocachi is the bohemian area of La Paz, just a short walk from downtown. It feels a bit like Budapest´s 7th district or Prague´s Vinohrady area has been transplanted high up in the Andes, mixed with a taste of Greenwich Village. There are interesting places on every street, plenty of urban art on the walls, and some rather distinctive people walking around. It is home to quite a number of social organizations and NGOs, as well as plenty of regular small businesses. During the week it has a pleasant urban buzz to it, with business being done and people working in offices and shops. At weekends it transforms into much more of a community, and the feeling is special indeed.
|La Virgen de los Deseos|
I am staying in a unique place in Sopocachi. La Virgen de los Deseos is a café restaurant with a few rooms run by an anarcha-feminist collective, Mujeres Creando (Women Creating). The building is unmistakeable – in the midst of regular buildings a pink mansion with rather cool artwork on the outside walls, and various campaigning banners and noticeboards placed around the property. Inside is similarly full of art (some bearing an uncanny resemblence to my Budapest apartment), with slogans painted on the wall, campaign posters under glass tabletops, and unusual sculptures hanging from the ceiling. The atmosphere is wonderful. Everyone smiles, everyone talks, everyone is friendly. The collective also runs a justice centre for women, a child care centre, a bookshop, a safe haven for abused women in the same building, and carries out spirited campaigns against poverty and discrimination.
|“The voice of my desires” – art inside the cafe|
Outside, the sun shines brightly on this spring like Saturday. I walk a few blocks to the local market, stacked full of beautiful vegetables and fruits, humming with activity. Organic and bio shops offer interesting local products., and I choose some German bread, smoked trout pate from Lago Titicaca, and a French apple tart for lunch later. Leaflets advertise concerts, theatre, music, cinema. Perhaps I´ll go to one this evening, or maybe a stop in the seductive local wine bar recently opened by a couple of expat Australians, or the industrial styled Diesel Nacional bar, complete with lit welding torches and tractor seats.
|Illimani presiding over the city|
The mix of people on the street includes local residents dressed in western clothes, traditionally dressed cholitas with colourful shawls and bowler hats, a few obvious expats, and hardly any tourists. No one is rushing. A short walk away on the Prado I stop at an excellent coffee shop for a mid morning café con leche and read a few chapters of the The Log from the Sea of Cortez. Walking back the glacier-capped 6000m+ peak of Illimani pushes through the cityscape, bright and clear in the thin air. Life is good.