This past Sunday was the 16th of July, the date that La Paz celebrates its independence. On the 16 of July in 1809 Pedro Domingo Murillo began the mestizo uprising against the Spanish authorities. When I arrived home to the Choque-Arroyo residence after our class’s excursion to Amboro my host brother, Gabriel, excitedly informed me that the rest of the family had taken a trip to Copacabana for a couple of days, so we were free to do whatever we wanted that night. around 7:30 we made our way down to the Irpavi teleferico station at the end of the green line. I didn’t really know what to expect, so I was quite surprised when I arrived. Surrounding the teleferico station were 4 stages, all with musical acts playing simultaneously, as well as a cholita wrestling wring, a portion of road to which the skateboarders had laid claim (complete with ramps of various sizes), and most importantly, more people than I have seen yet in one place in La Paz. I dare say even more people were at the teleferico station than there were at the Strongest game we attended. A collective haze rose from the crowd thanks to all of the cigarettes, and it quickly became apparent to me that for one night, drinking in public was essentially legal. Even the taxi drivers were abnormal that night, attempting to charge me and Gabriel over 200 B’s for a ride from the station in Calacoto to a bar in El Centro.
16 de Julio was a night that I will not forget for quite some time, and I am thankful that I was able to participate in the festivities. What surprised me the most about the night was the sheer magnitude of the celebration of La Paz’s independence day. In the United States, the entire nation celebrates our one national independence day on the same date, and I have never seen anything remotely close to the craziness that ensues here in La Paz on 16 de Julio. This contrast illustrates to me that despite the problems that Bolivians and citizens of La Paz constantly face with their government and the general situation of their nation, their national pride goes unhindered. The excitement and pride I witnessed this 16 de Julio made me happy for citizens of La Paz, and gave me a renewed sense of hope for where the city may head in the future.