El Alto, La Paz

El Alto ( Spanish " height" ) is a city in Bolivia and is located immediately west of La Paz, to which it belonged as a district until 1985.

El Alto has 848 840 inhabitants ( census 2012), making it the second largest city in Bolivia, Santa Cruz ( 1453549 ) and in La Paz ( 764 617 ) and Cochabamba ( 630 587 ). It forms, with La Paz the most populous urban area of Bolivia. In El Alto are a number of industrial enterprises and the highest international airport in the world.


El Alto is located 3850-4150 m on the arid plateau of the Altiplano. The total area of the urban area is 1042 km ².


The climate on the barren plateau is significantly exposed ( in particular, strong winds ) and cooler than in La Paz, which lies about 400 m deep in the protected deep valley of the Río Chokeyapu. The average annual temperature of the city is 9.3 degrees C in the long-term average, with long-term average daily minima of -4.7 degrees in July (winter) and average daily maximum of 17 degrees in December (summer). The annual rainfall in the long-term average is 601.5 mm.


El Alto has due to its short history and its emergence as a suburb not a historical city center. The road network is characterized by long, straight roads with rectangular cross- roads.

Along the national main roads, many industries have settled, which would not have sufficient space in the crowded valley of La Paz. In the central area of ​​El Alto at the height of the edge of the basin ( " la Ceja " ), there are numerous shops and street markets. The earlier lying in an open field airport is now completely surrounded by the growing city. There are extensive slums are of exiles, who in the city hoping for a better life on the outskirts of cities and around the airport.

Overall, the city is rather poor, because a disproportionate number of low-income indigenous populations with a rural background colonize that can not afford housing in the climatically much more pleasant La Paz.

El Alto stands in stark contrast to the much more affluent La Paz, which has a colonial part, sometimes embossed modern cityscape and a majority European-derived population.


In El Alto is the international airport of La Paz ( Aeropuerto Internacional El Alto -La Paz " John F. Kennedy " ), one of the highest traffic airports in the world. In comparison to other airports in El Alto aircraft must start with much higher speeds and land in order to achieve sufficient buoyancy in the thin mountain air. For this they require specially reinforced tires and the payload is limited, despite the 4,000 -meter airstrip (due to these limitations, focusing the international air traffic, particularly air freight, on the Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz in the lowlands ).

El Alto is the starting point of paved highways to Lake Titicaca, after Desaguadero (border crossing to Peru ), Arica ( Chile), Oruro and Cochabamba. Between La Paz and El Alto there is a four-lane ( toll ) highway ( " Autopista " ) and several steep and narrow roads through residential areas. In April 2013, the work on 3 cable cars between El Alto and La Paz, which should enable a better connection of the many commuters began. The railway lines to Lake Titicaca, Arica and Oruro converge in El Alto, where there is a branch line to La Paz. Currently, only the railway to Oruro in operation since May 2006 will be there again with a passenger rail car ( Ferrobus ) instead. It is also considering at the political level to reactivate decommissioned routes to Arica (possibly only for freight transport) and La Paz ( for passenger transport).

El Alto has no private bus station; Most intercity buses have agencies in El Alto and keep on their trips to and from La Paz in the city. The urban transport network and the connection to La Paz is served by minibuses and taxis line ( " Trufis ").

Because with the exception of the connection, all transport links ( located and important utilities such as refineries and gas bottling plants in El Alto) in the Yungas to and from La Paz through El Alto run, La Paz can by blocking fewer points at the height of the edge in El Alto de facto by the outside world are cut off and besieged. This came during the social unrest between 2003 and 2005 before several times, so that has now been even considered moving the seat of government because of its strategic vulnerability in another city.

History and political structure

The barren and inhospitable plateau north-west of La Paz was inhabited before and during the Spanish colonial period only from isolated Aymara groups.

The 1903 opened railway lines to Lake Titicaca and Arica had their terminus and workshops on the height above the edge of La Paz, the first settlements by railway workers emerged in the immediate vicinity. Only in 1905 was a steep spur track from El Alto to La Paz in operation.

1925 was applied on the plateau of the airfield and a military base for the newly established Air Force, leading to further settlements by themselves. 1939 the settlement was so great that a primary school was opened with starting a dozen students. However, the settlement was still hesitant because the water had to be laboriously delivered in tanks from La Paz.

Only when El Alto has been connected in the early 1950s to the water supply of La Paz and at the same time the land became scarce in the confined valley of La Paz, El Alto sat in a strong expansion.

During the revolution of 1952 occupied insurgent miners El Alto and the airbase conquered. So you prevented the planned bombing of La Paz, which was controlled by insurgents.

From 1957, the residents of the rapidly growing district organized themselves and sought a release from La Paz. In the same year, the first secondary school was opened in El Alto. 1970 El Alto received its own district administration (Sub Alcaldía ), 1976, the first clinic was opened.

The Law of 6 March 1985 El Alto politically as an independent administrative unit ( " sección municipal " ) of La Paz was separated. In 1988, the independent El Alto became a town. The March 6, 1985 is celebrated today as the official " date of incorporation " of the city.

The town was until 2002 in five districts ( " municipios Vecinos " ) divided: Achocalla, Laja, La Paz (Canton Zongo ), Pucarani and Viacha. By decree of 29 May 2002, the city today consists of eight districts and one rural district ( " distritos Municipales ").

Apart from the official city government of El Alto ( " Juntas Vecinales " ) is a system of approximately 600 neighborhood committees organized in which the local community has come together and are a major factor of power.


El Alto is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, about 50 % of the population is 19 years old and younger, only 18 % of the population older than 39 years. The reasons for population growth are both high reproduction rate of the resident population as well as the unabated influx of exiles, while the population of La Paz, which can not expand further because of the topographical constraints, has been stagnant for years.

The population of the city has increased in the past two decades to double:

74 percent of the population of El Alto belong to the group of Aymara, Quechua 6 percent.

El Alto is also one of the poorest cities in the world, as the slums of the city of La Paz have moved here: more than 70 % of the population live below the poverty line, 88 % of people are illiterate or have little writing and reading skills. Still have the most residential area neither water nor a power supply.


Many residents work in local industrial and commercial enterprises, catering or commute to La Paz about 70 % of the indigenous population is almost exclusively active in the informal economy. Moreover, in addition to the transport industry, internet cafes, mobile phone shops and small workshops with an average of 5 to 10, often semi-skilled workers without formal vocational qualifications, especially the trade in major markets in agricultural, self-produced, but partly also smuggled or stolen goods, as well as with fake, European and American fashion products from Asia.

Meanwhile, a private, predominantly carried by trade, urban middle class has emerged in El Alto. Among them are members of the professions, such as lawyers, doctors and architects who have located in El Alto, due to the slightly lower compared to La Paz Cost of Living, established.

In the center of El Alto branches of national and internationally-oriented banks and privately operated grocery stores are located.

In El Alto also various private and religiously -oriented non-governmental organizations with their own offices, largely paid from foreign donations, employees and contacts to work to Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.


There is only one daily newspaper; a thin sheet called " El Alteño ". It has only a small bearing; many people inform themselves via radio or internet blog.