A visit to la zona sur! 18/5/12

In Spanish class today, Theresa and I learned about Bolivian music and dance. Milka, our instructor, introduced us to a popular type of Bolivian music called “cumbia”. We watched videos of some popular cumbia groups, including “Azul Azul”. She also showed us videos of popular Bolivian dances, including la morenada, la cueca, and caporales. The morenada is a dance that comes from the time of the Spanish colonization, characterized by a mixture African and native elements. The cueca boliviana is a traditional dance that is performed during all types of Bolivian celebrations. Depending on the region of Bolivia, the style of dress and dance are different. The colorful short skirts seen in the picture below are typical of cueca dancers in Cochabamba and Tarija, other major Bolivian cities. The caporales dance originated in La Paz and is performed at all types of Bolivian celebrations as well. Below you can see the extravagant dress of the men who dance caporales.


After Spanish classes, we headed to Blueberries, a coffee shop near el instituto for lunch and coffee while we caught up on our course pack reading.

In the afternoon, Lucas took us to explore la zona sur, the wealthy section of La Paz located in the south, where the altitude is about 500 meters lower than the city center (where we are staying). Here we saw the striking contrast between El Alto, where the population is largely lower class and the wealthy neighborhood of la zona sur, which is very modern. We traveled by minibus and on our route we passed by Evo Morales’s house, the president of Bolivia, which was heavily guarded, but very close to the main road.

Getting cozy in the minibus.

Our best attempt at getting a picture of the president’s house while inside a moving minibus.

After exiting the minibus, we passed a Bolivian military school, where we saw some soldiers walking around the grounds. Military service is mandatory for men for one year.


Our first stop in la zona sur was the Mega Center, the largest mall in La Paz. We browsed the stores in the mall mostly to see how they compared to other stores we had seen in La Paz and to see how westernized this area has become. The mall had a variety of stores, including a supermarket, a movie theater, and a bowling alley. Although this mall was very similar to an American mall, we encountered something that we have never seen in the US. There was a section for kids to play inside large plastic bubbles in a pool of water. They were rolling around, trying their best to stay standing! It looked awesome and would have tried it ourselves, if only we were a little younger. Kids in America are missing out!

The highlight of the visit to the Mega Center!

Our next stop in the Mega Center was the food court, which had been highly recommended by many Bolivians. We were in the mood for something sweet and had out first Bolivian frozen yogurt and smoothie experience. It was delicious! Over the past few days, we have gradually become more adventurous with food (don’t worry not too adventurous).

After we’d had enough of the mall, Lucas brought us to Montenegro, a neighborhood in la zona sur with a lot of shops and restaurants.

We spent some time walking around and finally sat down for dinner at El Paladar, a Brazilian restaurant, recommended by Lucas. Theresa, Carla, and I shared the feijoada, a traditional Brazilian dish of beans, beef, and pork, while Elanna tried Carne Asada Rellena (see pics below).  Both dishes were delicious and we highly recommend this restaurant!


Overall, today’s outing was a sharp contrast to yesterday’s visit to La Ferria. At La Ferria, EVERYTHING was being sold and sold at very low prices. In la zona sur, we saw the opposite, where a large mall consisted of high-end stores and prices were high. The difference between the restaurants of Montenegro and the street food being sold at the fair also reflected the contrast of the neighborhoods.

Mañana, our instructors are taking us to some museums after morning Spanish classes and then we hope to do some shopping in La Sagarnada and the Witch’s market. Can’t wait!

– Christie Clarke


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