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Arriba El Alto

When I awoke on Wednesday morning I was on an overnight bus, and my lips had chapped and split. That was how I knew we had arrived, after a long ascent, to El Alto. After a freezing taxi ride we arrived at the COMPA house (comunidad de productores en arte) where our instructor Ana lives. Just walking in the front door, covered in a beautiful painting, we knew had arrived at a place of immense creativity and culture. That afternoon we met our new homestay families and went home. We live just a block away from COMPA so we are just a pleasantly short walk away from our activities. Since our arrival we have had the opportunity to hear from two women at the COMPA house. The first talked to us about the history of Teatro Trono and COMPA and about their purpose of decolonizing the body through theatre, dance, music, and art. The second spoke to us about the Gas War here in El Alto in 2003 which has played a really important role in uniting the people of El Alto and allowing for the election of Evo Morales. Although El Alto rests right above the city of La Paz, we are reminded time and time again that this relatively new and growing city has its own unique history and culture. Yesterday, after waking to a light snow, we saw the city of El Alto from above on one of the gondolas that fly above the city. At night, we watched Teatro Trono perform the play “Arriba El Alto” which they wrote to show different aspects of life in El Alto ending in the tragedy of the Gas War. For us, it was an incredible experience to have seen the city from above, and then for these young actors to allow us to feel its spirit. We are only here in El Alto for a short time before we leave early Monday morning for our hike in Condoriri, one of the many mountains towering above La Paz in the photo I attached. El Alto is a hard, cold city where a community has grown and in many ways thrived. Condoriri will be harder and colder, and hopefully our group will grow and thrive as well. We’ll see you all in just 10 days.