The Colorful Mansions of El Alto

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Spread out across the Bolivian highlands, at 4,000 meters, the city of El Alto is predominantly ochre-red, with thousands of low, matchbox-like brick houses with unfinished and unpainted facades lining the sides of dusty, unpaved roads. It’s so drab and monotonous and depressing that residents have started to liven things up by adding splashes of color wherever they could. They have also started to design their houses into bizarre shapes.

Spearheading this new architectural revolution is self-taught architect Freddy Mamani Silvestre, whose ostentatious mansions and tacky color choices are poised to take over the entire city. These buildings are dubbed cholets, from the words chalet, which means large house, and chola, a pejorative term for the indigenous Aymara people.













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