Income Inequality in the Zona Sur

When I got lost my first week here, the living conditions in the area I got stranded in (Ovejuyo) made me realize how great the income inequality is within the city of La Paz, not just between La Paz and El Alto.  I was in a much poorer area than I’d seen before in the Zona Sur, where there were very few storefronts and lots of trash on the streets.  Nearly every person I saw in the area more indigenous than of Spanish descent and much less wealthy than people that lived in the San Miguel/Calacoto area.  It was really humbling to see the low standard of living that people experienced in the outskirts of a city that I had previously thought of as more well-to-do.  I knew that generally, people in La Paz were a bit wealthier and people in El Alto were poorer, but I had never seen an area in La Paz whose poverty compared to its altiplano twin city.

On the other side of the Zona Sur, I went with my abuelos one afternoon after lunch to a second property they own in La Florida that they’re trying to sell.  These houses were absolutely huge mansions, inside a gated community nestled on the slope of a small mountain.  They pointed out different diplomat’s houses as we drove through, including the South Korean ambassador’s house and the former US Embassy.  These houses were worth at least a couple million US Dollars.  In sharp contrast to Ovejuyo,  every person I saw in this neighborhood of La Florida was dressed in western-style (not poyera) clothes, and didn’t seem to be of significant indigenous descent.  It made me ask myself how this stark contrast of incomes in such a small area came to be.  There is definitely a lot of “old money” in La Florida, which could possibly originate from Spanish colonialism and the caste systems of that time.  The additional remaining racism could explain why it seems that the indigenous population is generally less wealthy than the non-indigenous population here.  This is something I’d be very interested in doing more research on.


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  1. I’m glad you went back to that early experience of getting lost, and used it to reflect on or think about a broader issue, such as economic inequality. How does that alter your perceptions of La Paz? Which is the “real” La Paz, the one in Zona Sur, or the one in El Alto, or some other one (or maybe all of them)? Have you experienced any similar shocks in the US? Even in Oxford, there are the mansions near the Square and then the trailer parks and shotgun homes not too far away. Which is the “real” Oxford?


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