Protests against the government’s actions, just like in the US, are very common here in La Paz. While the protests here in Bolivia are generally peaceful, the use of fireworks to spark explosions threw me off guard the first time I experienced a protest myself. One night, I kept hearing what I thought were gunshots, but I reassured myself that I was staying in a nice area and the threat of violence was very low. However, the next morning, I still heard the explosion-like noises. At that point, I had no idea where they were coming from. I was on my way out the door to go to class when my abuela came down and told me a protest was blocking the way to school today. I was shocked; this is something I had definitely never experienced back at home. The protesters had the street blocked with huge logs all the way down the main Avenida Ballivián, effectively trapping us in the Zona Sur until they cleared the road. I was so thankful I was only missing class that day, and that I didn’t have an important flight to catch.
Later that day, our wifi went out, so we had to walk to the nearest Tigo store to get some help fixing it. From there, I could see some of the protesters: they were crowding the streets with homemade signs and setting off firecrackers. The police presence was much higher than I’d seen before in La Paz. I asked someone what they were protesting, and they said that the government wanted to expand a building project and add more floors, and the people didn’t want to pay for the expansion through taxes. I assume a part of this protest was against paying extra money, but another large part of it was to stop urbanization. From what I have observed, the Zona Sur has, by far, the largest number of freestanding homes remaining in the La Paz metropolitan area. I assume a lot of these homeowners value the less-urban environment of their area of the city, and want to keep it that way. The expanding of skyscrapers in this area would bring more people to live in the Zona Sur, as well as more businesses and traffic. I was surprised at first that this huge day-long protest was only about building construction, not a presidential policy, etc., but after thinking about it, it made perfect sense.