Los colores de La Paz

Nikki's picture

Central America can easily turn one off to Latin American capitals. Smog, poverty, dirt, and chaos prevail from San Salvador to Guatemala City, with the possible exception of Havana-esque Panama City. I'm glad we gave Latin American capitals another chance in South America. Buenos Aires, Santiago, Montevideo, and now, La Paz, have all exceeded our expectations and are well worth a visit.

La Paz in two words: colorful and extreme. The giant city fans out at the base of snow-covered giant peak Illimani. Locals chomp through wads of coca leaves to get through the day while visitors sip coca tea to adjust to the dizzying altitude. Women in bowling hats and huge (I have to believe padded) skirts cling to the knot of the weaving tied around their back, containing either a baby or the day's package of goods for sale. The narrow steep cobblestone streets around Iglesia San Francisco are lined with sidewalks full of weavings, hats, jewelery, purses and any other creation aimed at the culture-loving gringo shopper while up the hill, the Mercado de Brujeria, with its local tradition cures, hawks wares to an entirely different crowd, including my favorite the baskets of llama fetuses. Yikes.

My personal favorite thing to do in most cities is wander, and there are plenty of interesting wander-worthy places in La Paz: the cobblestone streets of Sagarnaga, the Plaza de Murtillo, the many markets, and historic Iglesia San Francisco. The city is home to many interesting museums, although we only made it to the Museo de Coca, which was interesting if not unbiased. And of course in La Paz, it's important to try at least one of its coca creations. My favorite was the "Bolivian mojito" below: a mojito using coca leaves instead of mint leaves. Not too bad!

Hello Nikki,
I came across your blog while doing research on Mendova Argentina.
I am looking to move, or at least have an extended stay in Argentina.
I was originally planning on taking Spanish classes in BA but thought if I could find an area that was a little closer to the size and landscape of the foothills here in Colorado (where I have grown up) all the better.

It appears you lived in Mendoza for a time. Is there a Spanish school in that area that you would recommend? And / or do you have any comments about taking classes there versus BA or possibly some other location in the country.

Any information is greatly appreciated.



Nikki's picture

Hi Andy!

I taught English and took Spanish classes at Instituto Intercultural in Mendoza. They have some great teachers and the school is more community-feeling than institutes I've been to in Baires. They also offer some day trips and other events you can do with other travelers.

Being from Colorado myself, I thought Mendoza would be a perfect place to choose over Baires. It really was a great place to live, but access to hiking and mountain biking are actually not very accessible from Mendoza city so you'd probably want to have a car if you were big into hiking and biking. Also, there's not a ton of stuff to do in Mendoza outside of the wine industry. There was a community of expats through The Wine Republic English language magazine, so that is a good way to get connected (and involved in the wine industry). There's also a great place to drink wine in town called the Vines of Mendoza. Being a relatively small city, it can be tough at first to meet locals so it can take time to feel like you've built a community.

I also have a great recommendation for private Spanish classes in Baires.

I live in Denver and run the Denver Spanish House, so let me know if you have any more questions!

Mucha suerte,


I'm also thinking about taking spanish classes in Mendoza. I've been in contact with another school (Argentina Idioma Espanol and they said they were the same as Instituto Intercultural. Does that sound about right to you? Don't want to be told one thing and then get there and its totally wrong. :-)
Appreciate your help!

Nikki's picture

It looks like the school you're contacting is a service that advertises for various schools around Latin America, so it seems to be the same school your contacting but I wonder if they charge a little commission to connect you with Intercultural? Maybe it would be best to go straight through Instituto Intercultural. Dale saludos a Natalia de mi parte!



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