National Geographic : 1966 Feb
Soldiers in Germanic helmets goose-stepped past in review. Behind them limped veterans of the Chaco War, a bloody territorial dispute with Paraguay in the early 1930's which re sulted in the loss of more than 50,000 Boliv ian lives and most of the Gran Chaco-a sparsely settled scrubland in the southeast. Then a contingent of MNR youth loosed a few bursts of automatic-weapons fire into the air. Bullets brought down masonry from the cornice above my head. Others felled a 6,600 volt power line, which lashed about in the street like a Chinese dragon, scattering sparks with reports as loud as the gunfire. Spectators reeled back, the marchers de toured, and somehow everyone escaped elec trocution. The president remained imperturb able. But one figure on the balcony had crum pled-the visiting minister. Moments later I was asked to vacate my window in the palace because a certain for eign dignitary had to be carried into the room. "Has he been shot?" I asked in alarm. Heiress of the conquistadors: Ana Taborga de la Quintana, of Spanish descent, attends La Paz's Convent of the Sacred Heart. Al though Spaniards in 1624 founded one of the Western Hemisphere's first universities in Sucre, only one Bolivian in three can read. Morning to evening, La Paz's main boulevard teems with activ ity fostered by shops, hotels, and crowded sidewalk cafes, such as this at Hotel Copacabana. The broad Avenida 16 de Julio, com monly called "El Prado," honors the date of Bolivia's armed revolt against Spanish rule in 1809. On Sunday mornings a modernized version of the old-fashioned Spanish promenade circles the tree-lined mall: Girls parade on foot, while ogling young men ride countercurrent in a slow pro cession of jeeps, trucks, and automobiles.