Cholets: New Aymaran Mansions



El Alto. With its baroque style and daring , full of Andean symbols, minimansiones (Tiny Mansions) outcropping in the streets of El Alto , buzzing stuck to La Paz growing apace not go unnoticed. Identify new Indian rich , many informal traders who made a fortune selling things on the street. Their owners often invest millions of dollars in opulent buildings and spend fortunes on dance halls with bright colors.


“They are a new bourgeoisie that migrated Aymara field and achieved success in trading ” , which they also like to show off their culture on par with its economic power , says the Jesuit anthropologist Xavier Albo .

The minimansiones combine modern architecture with traditional designs and reflect mainly two things: the wealth of the owners and their condition Aymara . There are about 120 such buildings in Bolivia, most of them in the giant slum of El Alto, according to the historian of architecture Elisabetta Andreoli, who describes the style as “neoandino“. And there are many more under construction.

Most emerged after the arrival to the presidency of Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of the country, an Aymara , in 2006. Match and modest economic boom , due to the good prices of raw materials, and a growing pride Aymara who feel their culture. The construction industry grew by 8.6% last year, at a rate that is twice the economic growth in general. Descendants of Tiwanaku, one of the oldest Andean peoples, the Aymara were never subjected, even by the Incas, and expanded through northern Chile, southern Peru and Bolivia are the most influential ethnic group. El Alto is the workmanship.

“I am a proud of my culture , cheerful and colorful Aymara woman. Then , why my house can not show what I am?” Says Rosario Leuca, a seller of food that is building its seven-storey building.

Ten years ago Leuca migrated from his village on the shores of Lake Titicaca and good seasoning allowed him to amass a small fortune. He began selling on the street and now built a second restaurant in its own building. Freddy Mamani, 42, is one of the leading creators of this architectural trend that people call “cholet” (fusion of chalet and cholo), which Mamani considered pejorative. He began as an assistant mason for 20 years, today it is a civil engineer and has a construction with 200 workers. Custom built 60 colorful buildings in this city and another 20 are in construction. With just over 800 thousand inhabitants, El Alto is a city of contrasts. A majority of the streets are dirt, dozens of neighborhoods lack sewerage, transportation is chaotic but bulle informal trade and craft workshops by unemployment. In its street markets you can buy all sorts of legal goods , contraband and even stolen auto parts.

Mamani is somewhat shy but his works are expressive: the condor, the snake, the Andean cross, Aymara traditional cultural elements, stylized shapes and colors acquire their dazzling facades.

“It all started with a suggestion from a customer”, said Mamani. “I came to use symbolic figures of Tiwanaku, because I identify with my culture and I’m proud of it.”… “Bright green and yellow tones that uses are the colors that represent prosperity and hope”, he said.


“I have not seen anything like this style anywhere else ,” said the architect historian Andreoli , co-author of a book on the works of Mamani. “I think a lot of countries in Latin America and in the South from other parts of the world have tried to differentiate classical and modern architecture, which comes from the north.”


“It’s a new trend that I would call contemporary popular baroque architecture; them (Aymara traders) like so, it seems to me that there is an imbalance of colors”, says Gastón Gallardo, professor of Architecture at the Universidad Mayor de San Andres-La Paz.

But the Highlanders are proud: It’s like a scream saying we are here, that we are“, says Rafael Crash, 25 and Agronomy student . We like the way we express our joy and luxury“, says Mario Clash, dealer 45. There are things you do not understand. Cops in El Alto and in some neighborhoods there but we have these buildings“, said the teacher Felisa Vargas, 48 .

Not only are houses to live. The ground floor is a luxurious ballroom for rent, with mirrored walls, columns, arches and sumptuous details in the ceiling holding imported from Iran, Spain and Italy lamps. On the upper floors there are apartments to rent or shopping arcades and on the terrace of a villa property serves owners , sunny and overlooking the Andean peaks. In a central square in this city a huge monument to the “Che” Guevara, the revolutionary epic reminiscent of El Alto, curious paradox for these business merchant capitalists rises. The buildings have already crossed the border even as Bolivian migrants carried Mamani built in cities in southern Peru, where he built three houses, and in the Brazilian city of Brasilia, where a building was constructed for a migrant.


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