PEACE IN THE VALLEY
Tucked in the valley within the endless Andean Mountains sits Nuestra Señora de la Paz, or just La Paz for short. A nickname that, on its surface, has no connection to the city. The city is loud, dirty, and chaotic. Traffic laws are merely suggestions, as black clouds of exhaust fumes blanket rush-hour gridlocks and zebra-striped crosswalks. The opening-and-closing of sliding doors on taxi minivans, and the rumble of diesel engines from repurposed military buses reverberates through the streets.
Towering over the southern horizon is Illimani, with its snow-capped peak slowly melting more and more on each return visit. It is a constant reminder of pachamama, the Incan goddess known as mother earth. The winding streets and steep hills dictate a slow pace, leaving the unacclimatized pausing to catch their breath. Its unusual subtropical highland climate means dry winters are met with wet summers. The direct sun contrasts the absence of warmth, and challenges the basic understanding of how to dress appropriately. Within this valley of dust and jagged cliffs exists a palette of colors and textures. No surface is safe from sprayed-on stencils, political propaganda and graffiti. Forgotten piles of bricks and obsolete telephone booths become permanent fixtures on street corners, just like the vending cart communities that run the local economy.
La Paz is a city that has consistently broke my heart and challenged my physical and mental toughness. It is also another home to me. Despite my frustrations, I continued to return to La Paz to try and understand a place that didn't always make sense. These photographs serve as a tribute to the beautiful people of Bolivia and my continued search for the meaning of peace.