Sometimes it is hard to believe that tranquility can be found inside the center of a vibrant, bustling city like La Paz. Yet for that exact reason I believe the founders of La Paz created just that kind of place directly within the heart and soul of the city. Originally called Plaza de Armas, Plaza Murillo was renamed after the war hero General Pedro Domingo Murillo who lead the wars of independence which eventually freed La Paz from its Colonial past.
Plaza Murillo is smack in the middle of La Paz and is surrounded by beautiful government buildings and an ornate cathedral. It is a lovely place to sit and chat with friends, have a snack or refreshment from a nearby street vendor or play with the swarms of pigeons. Whatever you fancy, you can find it here.
As you enter the Plaza Murillo, your eyes are immediately drawn to the gorgeous cathedral soaring majestically above the square. Built in 1835, the imposing cathedral was constructed in Renaissance style and sits proudly next to the Presidential Palace. I spent a few moments walking around the square capturing some of the various buildings. It was evident that most of Plaza Murillo had been nicely restored but like the rest of the city, other parts had been obviously missed.
I noticed a huge ad announcing The International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women in La Paz. Violence against women is a real problem in Bolivia and thankfully the government is taking steps to reduce it. Sadly, it will be a long and difficult path ahead since violence towards women is deeply engrained in Bolivia’s machismo culture and attitude.
The center of Plaza Murillo is flagged with pigeons and locals alike who come to relax, catch up with friends and grab a snack. Once there, you feel like you are in a different world that is far away from noisy, chaotic La Paz.
In the center of Plaza Murillo lies the statue of President Gualberto Villarroel who just like General Murillo, was dragged to the center of the plaza by vigilantes and hung from a lamppost (Thanks Lonely Planet for the tidbit of information!).
If you are hungry or thirsty, no worries as there are lots of different kinds of snacks and refreshments for sale by local street vendors. I was too afraid to try anything as I already had a weak stomach at that point and didn’t want to take any chances. I never eat street food because it isn’t worth the risk but I know a lot of other travelers do and are fine.
The Plaza is a good place to catch up with friends.
Or get a shoe shine.
Or walk your open-pant wearing dog.
Plaza Murillo is an ideal place for a tourist like me to sit down, relax and watch the world go by. I’m certain I would have found a great assortment of photographic opportunities if I only had the time. Unfortunately, two days in La Paz was not enough.
Stay tuned….I have only one more post left on La Paz before I head out to the gorgeous highlands of Bolivia’s Andes. The next post will be views from high above the city on the world’s largest urban gondola system.