La Paz Ibero–American Capital of Culture 2009

January 2008 -

It promises to be an interesting cultural year in the Bolivian city of La Paz. Early in 2005 it was selected as the Ibero-American Capital of Culture 2009, and in July of this year the city will celebrate the bicentennial (Bicentenario) of the first Declaration of Independence on the Latin-American continent. That marked the beginning of the revolt against the Spanish Crown and ultimately resulted in a wave of declarations of independence.

Interesting prospects, but the organisation of these events was not smooth sailing. In the run-up to the organisation of the Bicentenario, a major conflict of interests occurred with the constitutional capital of the country, Sucre, even though that city's International Committee had proposed only one cultural project. Quito in Ecuador decided to join the battle with its claim to the first declaration of independence, as a result of which three ‘first’ declarations will be celebrated: in May in Sucre, in July in La Paz and in August in Quito.

Because of its cosmopolitan nature, the contest for winning the organisation of the Ibero-American Capital of Culture was won by La Paz. The city authorities are doing everything possible to showcase both the city's Ibero-American character and the local cultural diversity during the festivities. The Indian Aymara population celebrates an average of 200 to 230 folklore festivities each year. These will serve as the festive calendar for the cultural year. Significant investments have also been made to improve the cultural infrastructure including theatres, libraries and music halls, in order to host the many expected international and national guests.

However: how can celebrations be democratic when a significant share of the city's population does not even have the money to travel to the city centre for a free performance in one of the theatres? A travelling programme of cultural activities is being organised in the libraries and population clusters in the mountains of this city, which is situated at an altitude ranging from 3400 to 4000 metres. The successful cultural open-air market organised every Sunday in the centre of La Paz will serve as model for organising cultural activities in public spaces in the city's dozens of neighbourhoods.