Santa Cruz was a nice respire for me in a lot of ways, quelling the beginnings of culture shock and home-sickness I was beginning to experience. It’s cleanliness was a pleasant surprise after becoming accustomed to the decrepit state of La Paz, and the city’s Spanish architecture and structure transported me back to Buenos Aires, which had initially reminded me of Italy so I felt like I was finally in my comfort zone. It is plain to see that there is money in Santa Cruz between the numerous designer label stores, Uber and equivalent level transportation, and advertisements for luxury country clubs – clearly differentiating it from the local market feel here in the capital. Though I wake up to the mountainous landscape of La Paz every morning, it was a refreshing change to be surrounded by as much greenery as Santa Cruz has; I finally felt as if I could breathe again. The disparity between these two cities is so grand it was almost hard to believe we were in the same country as La Paz; I felt as if I were in California, in all honesty.
Apparently, that’s what drug money will do to a city in a developing country. The economic prosperity, illegal or not, has had significant implications on the level of development and standard of living within that one region, making it almost unrecognizable as a city within one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Though it is destined to bottom out or implode as all illegal institutions do, it was encouraging to see that Bolivia has the capability to proper and reach this level of development while still maintaining its cultural roots. All around Santa Cruz are tributes and murals to the Amazonian culture from which it originates – differentiating itself from the Andean culture here in La Paz. It’s surprising and encouraging to see this incorporation when it would have been easy for Santa Cruz to lose this indigenous nuance in favor of its Spanish roots due to its upscale, urbanized nature.
All in all, I greatly enjoyed my time in such an eclectic city and valued the opportunity to juxtapose these two Bolivian cities and cultures.