This week, the first families will move into Bolivia’s new Wiphala social housing complex, located in El Alto – a city that in recent years has become known as the home of architect Freddy Mamani’s ornate, folklor-futurist “Neo-Andino” style buildings. The complex, which consists of seven buildings, will not only provide affordable housing for up to 1,600 residents – it’s also becoming an art destination, drawing crowds who come to see the 12-story murals painted on the building façades by renowned Bolivian artist Mamani Mamani.
The technicolor murals depict an Andean world view, featuring figures like la Pachamama, the sage, the condor, and the lloq’alla (niño). Together with Freddy Mamani’s buildings, they cement El Alto as hub for an explosion of Andean art and architectural expressions that is perhaps unprecedented in South America’s contemporary landscape.
The highest urban metropolis in the world, El Alto is also the biggest city both built and inhabited by Indigenous Americans, the vast majority of whom are Aymara (only 0.1% of the population is criollo, or white.) Under Evo Morales’ presidency, this indigenous population has become more economically empowered, leading to an Aymara bourgeois class that is raising the profile and prestige of Andean culture.
“These people, who do not have houses, who do not have social housing, now have this whole mural which they can enjoy,” Mamani told EuroNews about his work at the housing project. “We are breaking another parameter. This comes in part from being from the Andes, with the sense of ‘ainy’ – ‘give and take’ – the idea that we share what you give me and what I give you, and what we have together.”