Moving on up in Bolivia

I just came across an interesting article called  ‘Neo-Andean’ architecture sprouts in Bolivia.  Just like the nouveau riche anywhere, they are eager to flaunt their newly formed wealth, but in this case it is mixed with ancient Andean motifs.

So who is this new group who are building small mansions around El Alto, “the sister city” of La Paz?  The article notes that “many of them merchants who converted street stalls into fortunes.”

Take the example of Rosario Leuca, who moved from Lake Titicaca to El Alto 10 years ago and has moved up from being a street vendor to a restauranteur.  “I am an Aymara woman, proud of my culture, happy and full of color. So why should my home not show what I am?” Leuca says as she does a few whirls to show off a puffy skirt, wool shawl and Borsalino hat that similarly bespeak her heritage.

Here’s a description of her place:

It is a ” seven-story manse, now being built, will have all the essential elements: A facade resplendent with symbols from the pre-Columbian Tiwanaku culture, plenty of plate glass and a luxury chalet penthouse with built-in barbeque grill and view of nearby snow-capped Andean peaks. The lower floors of Leuca’s castle are, as is the custom, dedicated to commerce. The ground floor will be a restaurant, the mezzanine a reception hall that fits more than 300 people. Higher up is a synthetic mini-soccer pitch and apartments.”


Freddy Mamami is probably the architect most associated with this new style.  According to the article, “He has built 60 such mini-mansions in El Alto and has another 20 under construction.”

For some reasons ballrooms are a huge feature of these mansions and “often account for half their total cost.”

As for a description of the style, “mirrored walls, columns and sumptuous arcs predominate. Chandeliers come from Iran, Italy and Spain.The condor, serpent and the Andean cross — a kind of ‘Tree of Life’ in local mythology — dominate the stylized figures that brighten his facades.”


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