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La Paz City

LA PAZ CITY (officially LA PAZ DE AYACUCHO), the capital of Bolivia since 1898, the see of a bishopric created in 1605 and capital of the department of La Paz, on the Rio de la Paz or Rio Chuquiapo, 42 m. S.E. of Lake Titicaca (port of Chililaya) in 16 30' S., 68 W. Pop. (1900) 54,713, (1906, estimate) 67,235. The city is built in a deeply-eroded valley of the Cordillera Real which is believed to have formed an outlet of Lake Titicaca, and at this point descends sharply to the S.E., the river making a great bend southward and then flowing northward to the Beni. The valley is about lorn, long and 3 m. wide, and is singularly barren and forbidding. Its precipitous sides, deeply gullied by torrential rains and diversely coloured by mineral ores, rise 1500 ft. above the city to the margin of the great plateau surrounding Lake Titicaca, and above these are the snow-capped summits of Illimani and other giants of the Bolivian Cordillera. Below, the valley is fertile and covered with vegetation, first of the temperate and then of the tropical zone. The elevation of La Paz is 12,120 ft. above sea-level, which places it within the puna climatic region, in which the summers are short and cold. The mean annual temperature is a little above the puna average, which is 54 F., the extremes ranging from 19 to 75. Pneumonia and bronchial complaints are common, but consumption is said to be rare. The surface of the valley is very uneven, rising sharply from the river on both sides, and the transverse streets of the city are steep and irregular. At its south-eastern extremity is the Alameda, a handsome public promenade with parallel rows of exotic trees, shrubs and flowers, which are maintained with no small effort in so inhospitable a climate. The trees which seem to thrive best are the willow and eucalyptus. The streets are generally narrow and roughly paved, and there are numerous bridges across the river and its many small tributaries. The dwellings of the poorer classes are commonly built with mud walls and covered with tiles, but stone and brick are used for the better structures. The cathedral, which was begun in the 17th century when the mines of Potosi were at the height of their productiveness, was never finished because of the revolutions and the comparative poverty of the city under the republic. It faces the Plaza Mayor and is distinguished for the finely-carved stonework of its facade. Facing the same plaza are the government offices and legislative chambers. Other notable edifices and institutions are the old university of San Andres, the San Francisco church, a national college, a seminary, a good public library and a museum rich in relics of the Inca and colonial periods. La Paz is an important commercial centre, being connected with the Pacific coast by the Peruvian railway from Mollendo to Puno (via Arequipa), and a Bolivian extension from Gvaqui to the Alto de La Paz (Heights of La Paz) the two lines being connected by a steamship service across Lake Titicaca. An electric railway 5 m. long connects the Alto de La Paz with the city, 1493 ft. below. This route is 496 m. long, and is expensive because of trans-shipments and the cost of handling cargo at Mollendo. The vicinity of La Paz abounds with mineral wealth; most important are the tin deposits of Huayna-Potosi, Milluni and Chocoltaga. The La Paz valley is auriferous, and since the foundation of the city gold has been taken from the soil washed down from the mountain sides.

La Paz was founded in 1548 by Alonzo de Mendoza on the site of an Indian village called Chuquiapu. It was called the Pueblo Nuevo de Nuestra Senora de la Paz in commemoration of the reconciliation between Pizarro and Almagro, and soon became an important colony. At the close of the war of independence (1825) it was rechristened La Paz de Ayacucho, in honour of the last decisive battle of that protracted struggle. It was made one of the four capitals of the republic, but the revolution of 1898 permanently established the seat of government here because of its accessibility, wealth, trade and political influence.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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