Leaving La Paz

On Saturday morning we hoped to have clear skies so we could get a good photo of La Paz with Illimani in the background. But the clouds foiled us again.

So we took a bus to Calle Jaen, a quiet historic street in La Paz, which is home to four municipal museums. We wanted to see these museums before we left later in the afternoon for Copacabana, where we would see Lake Titicaca.

Getting to the museums was something of a challenge. Calle Jaen is cut off from some streets, and there was an extremely long street of stairs to climb to get there as well. But it was worth it. Calle Jaen was quiet, which was unusual in La Paz. The look of the street was Spanish colonial, with balconies and a very tight street.

The museums were nice. Museo Costumbrista was filled with paintings, nativity scenes, miniatures, and dioramas.

My favorite was Museo Litoral (Museum of the Coastline), which is dedicated to the memory of a strip of land along the Pacific Ocean, which Bolivia lost to Chile during a war in the 1800s. Bolivia’s history is replete with such territorial losses in war, but this seems to be the one they feel most passionate about. They even have a patriotic song they sing called “Recuperemos nuestro mar” which means “Let’s recover our sea!” I have been fascinated by this whole thing for quite some time, so when I found out there was a museum dedicated to it, I had to check it out. The museum was full of maps documenting Bolivia’s former coastline and ports. There were authentic uniforms worn by Bolivian soldiers in the war, photos, and information about some of the heroes of the war. We didn’t look at it, but there was also a section with tons of documents relating to the issue.

We were running out of time, so we dashed through the Museo de Metales Preciosos (Precious Metals). It was a fascinating look at the use of gold, silver, etc in pre-Spanish times, mostly by the Tiwanakans and Incans. The gold exhibits were understandably contained in a giant vault.

Yoli was mistaken for a tour guide several times in these museums. One mother asked Yoli how her daughter could become a tour guide. After correcting this notion (we are married, and she’s never been to these museums anyway) she told the mother to make sure her daughter learned English. Then while Yoli was away the mother engaged me in conversation.

We wanted to see the final museum, but we were out of time. We had to check out of our hotel, take a taxi across the city, and catch a bus to Copacabana, the Bolivian city on a peninsula jutting into Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake on the face of the earth.