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Bolivian Man Builds Transformers-Themed Houses for the Rich

Santos Churata has been a fan of the Transformers universe since early childhood. Now a licensed home builder in the Bolivian city of El Alto, the 34-year-old uses his passion for autobots and decepticons as inspiration for the design of eye-catching houses for the rich.

The city of El Alto, located at 4,070 meters above sea level, has become well-known for a unique architectural style called “chola architecture”. Sometimes described as psychedelic baroque, it incorporates symbols of native Andean culture, Chinese design elements and all the colors of the rainbow. For the new wealthy indigenous Bolivians, who have made millions in recent years, these modern-day palaces are a reflection of both their social status and their proud Aymara heritage. In 2015, there were over 170 unique chola houses in El Alto, enough for the city to set up a tourist route for the most impressive ones.

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14-Year-Old Boy Designs His Own Prosthetic Hand for Just $100

Unable to find a prosthetic hand that fit him him properly, Leonardo Viscarra, a 14-year-old boy from Bolivia, decided to build one himself, using 3D-printing technology.

Leonardo was born with an undeveloped left hand. As a fetus in his mother’s womb, the boy’s right hand was caught in the placenta and unable to develop properly. He was diagnosed with amniotic band syndrome at birth, and could never use his left hand for basic tasks like picking up or grabbing objects. However, an incident during his childhood sparked an interest in assembling and building things, which ultimately helped him achieve his goal of one day gaining almost full use of his undeveloped hand.

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Meet the Middle-Aged Cholitas Conquering the Highest Mountains in South America

Most mountaineers wouldn’t venture out on an expedition without the proper gear and attire, but a group of Bolivian women have shocked the world by climbing some of South America’s highest mountains – all while wearing their traditional attire of colorful, layered skirts. Dressed in ‘cholita paceñas’ outfits complete with Andean ‘aguayo’ shawls and knitted cardigans, they look like typical grannies albeit on a serious mission.

These women, belonging to the indigenous Aymara people of the Andes, would normally stay at home while their husbands worked as mountain guides in the worst of conditions. They would cook at base camps or work as porters, never actually scaling the treacherous peaks themselves. But all that changed a couple of years ago, when Lydia Huayllas, wife of a mountain guide, wanted to know what it felt like to scale the steep, glacial slopes of the 19,974-foot Huayna Potosi mountain.

“What do you do up there, how does it feel?” she asked her husband, Eulalio Gonzalez. In response, he told her to find out for herself. So she did just that.

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Huachito, “Bolivia’s Most Loyal Dog”, Still Waits for His Master Five Years after His Death

Huachito is an extremely faithful Bolivian dog, named after his famous Japanese counterpart, Hachiko. Just like Hachiko, who stunned the world with his loyalty to his dead owner, Huachito is mourning the death of his beloved human friend.

Huachito, ‘Huachi’, or simply ‘Hachi’ to some, is of an unknown breed. This remarkable dog has surprised the residents of Pope Paul Avenue, in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where he comes daily and waits for his master to return. Unfortunately, the dog’s owner passed away five years ago in a tragic accident.

According to Roman Lujan Bilbao, a local butcher, “It should be about five years since the owner died in a motorcycle accident. The dog has come and stood here ever since.” The locals have taken to feeding and caring for the dog while it waits patiently.

Huachito-dog

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Bolivian Movie Marathon Exceeds 200 Hours, Sets New Guinness Record

I love watching movies, but doing it continuously for over 200 hours seems like an impossible feat. But not for two Bolivian movie aficionados who recently won a national movie marathon contest and split a prize of $10,000.

Last year, Bolivia set a new world record for the longest movie marathon. Felipe Gonzalo Ticona managed to stay awake for 131 hours watching all kinds of different films, but because a Guinness representative wasn’t present on scene, his record wasn’t certified so the title remained in the possession of a certain Indian gentleman. But this year, Bolivian movie theater chain “Cine Center” was determined to snatch the title of longest ever movie marathon for their home country, so they announced another monumental film-watching event that would take place simultaneously in three of Bolivia’s largest cities: La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. The person who managed to beat all other participants and surpass the current record of 128 hours was guaranteed a prize of $10,000 and his name mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records. In total, over 1,400 film fans signed up for the chance to see dozens of films and win the attractive cash prize. At first, organizers decided to allow only people over 18 to enter the competition, but after receiving a considerable number of requests from younger movie buffs, they decided to allow teens as well, as long as they presented a signed authorization from their parents. Everyone had to pay a $14 entrance fee.

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San Pedro Prison – Bolivia’s Most Bizarre Tourist Attraction

San Pedro Prison is the largest in La Paz, Bolivia, housing around 1,500 inmates,  but that’s not what makes it special. Unlike most penitentiaries around the world, this place is a self-organized community with its own market stalls, restaurants, hairdressers and even a hotel. Oh, and no guards.

You’ve probably heard of or seen special prisons before. A few months ago we wrote an article on Norway’s Bastoy Island, where prisoners have hotel-like accommodations, are allowed to walk around freely and engage in a variety of relaxing activities. Today we take you on a tour of San Pedro, in La Paz, Bolivia, a sort of jail town where prisoners are free to live with their families and buy whatever they want without fearing repercussions from the guards. In fact there are no guards inside the large prison, or bars on the cell windows, so inmates have the relative freedom of going wherever they please. The police don’t interfere with the affairs of the inmates, who are expected to resolve their own issues with the help of representatives elected democratically.

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The Flying Men of Bolivia’s Yungas Valley

It truly amazes me how people are able to find great shortcuts in any kind of situation. A while ago, we wrote about Bamboo Drifting , which was a means to cross rivers in China by balancing on a thin bamboo pole. Deep valleys exist in the jungles of Bolivia too, but the locals have chosen flying over rowing, and it’s much faster. On foot, the journey would take a good 1 hour, as they’d have to walk down to the bottom, cross the river and climb up the other side. But 30 seconds is all it takes for the people of Yungas Valley to fly across.

No, they haven’t mysteriously sprouted wings, nor do they use any fancy machines. Their flying equipment is simple – 20 ropes strung across the valley with old rusting pulleys, 200 meters above the river and stretching as long as 400 meters. Several of the local cocoa harvesters, the Cocaleros, use the ropes every day to travel to and fro along with their goods. They tie themselves to the pulleys using strips of fabric, and glide across effortlessly. Branches and leaves are used as brakes to stop themselves so they don’t end up crashing into the other side.

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Bolivia’s Day of the Skulls

Dia de los Natitas (Day of the Skulls) is an ancient Bolivian ritual where skulls are decorated with flowers and pampered with cigarettes, coca leaves and other treats.

Every November 9, the central cemetery, in La Paz, Bolivia, becomes the scene of a bizarre pre-Columbian tradition, known as Dia de los Natitas.  Women carrying skulls, in decorated wooden or cardboard boxes, fancy glass cases and even in plastic bags, gather outside the cemetery to show off their skulls. They are usually decorated with flower petals (hydrangeas and roses) and covered with knitted colorful caps.

Some Bolivians believe a person has seven souls, and one of them remains in the skeleton, after they’ve been buried. Once the other souls have left for heaven, the remains are dug up and the skull taken home and cared for. If they’re not respected, skulls can bring bad luck to a household, ruin the harvest and even break up a family. But if they’re properly taken care of, you can ask the skull for favors.

A big part of caring for the skull is represented by the Dia de Las Natitas celebration. Skulls are offered cigarettes, coca leaves, alcohol and are even serenaded by street musicians. Read More »