Tuesday, September 3, 2013

El día del peaton

Imagine this: Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver dedicating one day a year to a car-free day. Sounds quite unlikely, doesn't it? Well, that is exactly what La Paz does every first Sunday of September. This city of 1 million people, the world's highest de facto capital, celebrates El día de peaton (the day of pedestrians) to bring awareness to both the environment and health. It was mind blowing to experience La Paz without cars. This city bustles with cars and taxis and buses like no other city I have seen. As well, the carbon emissions are not controlled like in Canada, for instance. What you are left with is a lot of heavy spewing of exhaust. So for this city to turn around and be car-free is obviously a night and day experience.

We celebrated El día de peaton with the thousands of others who took part in the many activities set up across the city. On El Prado, one of the city´s main streets, Bolivians enjoyed more than three kilometres of fun such as skipping, art making, live street music, karaoke, not to mention getting around on various forms of transportation like stilts and inline skates and skateboards and bikes. This is not normally a city of biking so it was an unusual site. I must say that I held my breath a few times as I watched kids blasting downhill with great abandon. Good times.

These fine artists from El Alto, the city on the altiplano (the Andean plateau that sits at 4,100m) added to the festivities with their bright colours and enthusiastic music.

Ready and waiting for the budding artists.

Literally taking art to the street.

Giggling teenage boys testing out their double-dutch prowess. Hysterical.

A group of dancers put on an impromtu performance to the delight of all.

"Saxoman", as he called himself, put on a very fine, spirited performance, playing everything from traditional Bolivian music to jazz to Santana. Music truly is a universal language.

Can I be a "Saxoman" one day, too?

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