I went to El Alto, a satellite city of La Paz in the Andean Plateau, which is over 4000 meters high, and I found something you couldn’t expect!
In this new born city, where the architecture is characterized by a strong use of exposed brick, Aymara natives, coming from the countryside, are now part of the new middle class and there is a new style of architecture to represent them, which introduced some color in the city of El Alto.
These extravagant and colorful Nuevo Andino (New Andean) style buildings are called Cholet, a mix between the words “chalet” and “cholo” – a dismissive racial epithet that it is used in some Latin American countries to identify the indigenous population.
The authorship of this new style can be entrusted to the self-taught architect Freddy Mamani Silvestre and in his wake other members of the nascent Aymara bourgeoisie who started to build their houses inspired by the colors and forms of indigenous folklore.
The Cholets have a fixed structure: on the first floor there is a commercial activity – butcher’s shop, ironmongery’s store, bazaar.. -, at the second floor there is the party hall, on the third floor owners rent apartments to amortize the cost of the building and on the top floor the Cholet proper, the home of the owners.
These buildings in El Alto became the representation of economical success.
I retraced the streets of El Alto to discover these colorful buildings and photographing them.
I focused on the social and architectural contrast they represent, without ignoring the uniqueness of the geometry and chromaticity typical of this style.
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By Yuri Segalerba