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‘Breathtaking La Paz, Bolivia & Bowler Hats’ by K.J.S.Chatrtath

On getting out of the plane on reaching La Paz, Bolivia, I found the place breath taking and myself breathless. After all, located at a height of 13,000 ft.,  it is the highest national capital of  the world. The oxygen level in the air makes you slow down your pace, but do not worry as one gets used to it in less than a day.

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DSC00031 580 40 This building housing the National Assembly in La Paz says a lot about the people of Bolivia. They can be consciously different and chuckle at their own sense of humour. In case you missed the point- look at the photo again. Still no? Well the numbers 1 to 12 in the clock are kept anti-clock wise since the country is in the southern hemisphere and the climate is supposed to be the reverse of what is in the Norhern Hemisphere.  And imagine keeping such a clock atop the National Assembly building!

DSC00051 640 40No visit of mine to any foreign country is complete with visiting the local cemetery.

DSC00088 640 50A busy market scene in La Paz.

DSC00074 580 25Now guess what is this article that I found on a restaurant table. Let me give you a hint. Potato is a very important produce of this country. O.K. It is a mud salt dispenser made to look like a potato.

DSC00087 640 66You would see ladies proudly donning a sombero hat everywhere in Bolivia. A few words about this. El Sombrero – the Bowler Hat or the ‘bowler’, is called a bombín in Spanish, has been worn by Quechua and Aymara indigenous women since the 1920s, when it was introduced in Bolivia by British railway workers.  Shortly after the bowler hats were invented in Manchester, U.K., two brothers were manufacturing such bowler hats. Their plan was to sell them to the British railway workers who were working in Bolivia at the time. However, when the consignment of the hats arrived to South America they found that those were way too small to fit the heads of the men.
So, instead of throwing them out they decided to create a “fictional” story to tell the Bolivian Cholitas. This story was that all the fashionable women in Europe were going around wearing these bowler hats and it was the new fashion trend! A legend was also floated that those wearing them did not have problems with infertility. So it became vastly popular among the women from the Aymara indigenous group. For many years, a factory in Italy manufactured the hats for the Bolivian market, but they are now made locally.
I t appears that these hats are worn on different parts of the head by a woman in order to signify their marital status! Wearing the hat in the middle of the head means that the woman is married. To the side means that she is either single or widowed. The light hearted interpretation of wearing this hat towards the back is that the relationship is not very clear!
Besides Bolivia, Peru, Equador & Colombia, another region of the world where the bowler hat is worn is the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. In Kinnaur in India too , women don caps and arrange those on one side or front of the head  depending on their marital status.

There is lots more to talk about Bolivia –  but in another photo article.

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Readers may like to acess my earlier photo-articles on Bolivia by clicking at the links below:

(1)  ‘Weekly market at hill top of La Paz, Bolivia’ by K.J.S.Chatrath ; http://www.fiftyplustravels.com/?p=6018
(2) ‘Melange of nationalities‘ by K.J.S.Chatrath ; http://www.fiftyplustravels.com/?p=6951
(3) ‘La Paz, Bolivia at 13,313 ft above sea level’ by K.J.S.Chatrath; http://www.fiftyplustravels.com/?p=6360
(4) ‘Entering Brazil from Bolivia’ by K.J.S.Chatrath; http://www.fiftyplustravels.com/?p=6094

(5) ‘Coffee in Santacruz, Bolivia’ by K.J.S.Chatrath; http://traveltalk.co.in/?p=2740
(6) ‘G Adventures Group in Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia‘ by K.J.S.Chatrath; http://traveltalk.co.in/?p=2727

One Response to “‘Breathtaking La Paz, Bolivia & Bowler Hats’ by K.J.S.Chatrtath”

  1. naresh whig says:

    I was fascinated to see a programme last week about Bolivian railway that operates at such high altitudes and how tracks are zig-zagged to overcome the gradient. Also, how Chile invaded Bolivia when latter demanded compensation for nitrates (huge area where nitrates were mined). Today that area is permanently a part of Chile. That’s why Chile has a huge coast line while Bolivia became landlocked. If you want to cross the border between Bolivia and Chile if travelling by train, you have to carry your own baggage for 1 km between the two countries railway stations , because of lack of trust between the two. There is now hope for Bolivia to emerge from shadows as they have found big reserves of lithium that is used in batteries.

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