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El Alto

El Alto

El Alto (Spanish for "The Heights") is the second-largest city in Bolivia, located adjacent to La Paz in Pedro Domingo Murillo Province on the Altiplano highlands. El Alto is today one of Bolivia's fastest-growing urban centers, with an estimated population of 943,558 in 2020. It is also the highest major city in the world, with an average elevation of 4,000 m (13,123 ft).

The El Alto–La Paz metropolitan area, formed by La Paz, El Alto, Achocalla, Viacha, and Mecapaca, constitutes the most populous urban area of Bolivia, with a population of about 2.2 million. The city is rapidly developing, although significant challenges with substandard infrastructure and utilities remain, especially in the outlying areas. The construction of an elaborate cable car system connected El Alto directly with central La Paz, dramatically easing transportation into the economic center of the metropolitan area. A locally indigenous Neo-Andean architectural style has developed alongside this growth, giving the city a distinct appearance as it has modernized.


The dry and inclement plain above La Paz was uninhabited until 1903 when the newly built railways from Lake Titicaca and Arica reached the rim of the canyon, where the La Paz terminus, railyards and depots were built along with a settlement of railway workers (a spur line down into the canyon opened in 1905). In 1925, the airfield was built as a base for the new air force, which attracted additional settlement. In 1939, El Alto's first elementary school opened. El Alto started to grow tremendously in the 1950s when the settlement was connected to La Paz's water supply (before this, all water had to be transported from La Paz in tanker vehicles) and building land in the canyon became more and more scarce and expensive. In an administrative reform in March 1985, the district of El Alto and its surroundings were politically separated from the City of La Paz (this date is officially referred to and celebrated as the city's "founding day"). In 1987, El Alto was formally incorporated as a city. In 1994, the city became the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of El Alto.


El Alto's autonomous government identifies 14 districts composing the city.


El Alto is the largest city in Latin America with a mostly Indigenous population. About 76% of its inhabitants are Aymara, 9% are Quechua, 15% are Mestizo (descendants of Indigenous and Europeans), and less than 0.1% are Criollos (White). El Alto was once known as La Paz's bedroom community, though recent growth of commerce and industry has led to concern about water pollution by businesses, including tanneries and slaughterhouses, for the city and communities downstream. Rapid population growth means the city struggles to bring potable water and sewer service to parts of the population, especially on the fringes of the expanding urban area.


The city contains La Paz’s El Alto International Airport. El Alto is one of the highest major cities in the world, up to 4,300 meters (13,615 feet) above mean sea level. It has a cold climate, with the highest average monthly maximum temperature being 17 °C (63 °F) in November. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in Bolivia, due to immigration from Bolivia’s rural areas to the La Paz region which started with the rural reform of 1952 and increased in the last 10 years. Some migrants say the difficulty of growing crops in the countryside drove them to move to the city.


The Köppen climate classification system classifies El Alto's climate as a rare cold-summer variety of a subtropical highland climate (Cwc). Temperatures are typically cool during the day and crisp at night year-round. Snowfall is possible at any time during the year.

The water supply in El Alto has been impacted by drought caused by shrinking glaciers. In 2016 the three main dams supplying water to the city were almost dry due to lack of glacial melt water.


Museo de Arte Antonio Paredes Candia opened in 2002. From 2003, access from La Paz to the international airport, as well to oil and gas supplies, has been frequently blocked by protesting social leaders and some of the most powerful players in the politics of Bolivia. El Alto remains one of the major centers of the Bolivian gas conflict.

El Alto is known for its Neo-Andean architecture, built from the mid-2000s onward.

There is a large open-air market.


Giuseppe Zanotti Luxury Sneakers


El Alto is a municipality within the province of Murillo. The government of the city is divided into the executive and legislative branches. The mayor of El Alto is the head of the city government, elected for a term of five years by general election. The legislative branch consists of the municipal council, which elects a president, vice president, and secretary from a group of 11 members.

The current mayor is Monica Eva Copa, who defeated MÁS candidate Zacarias Maquera in March 2021 after being ousted by the El Alto party. The previous election was held in March 2021. The Government of El Alto faces competition in providing public services, security and participation with the grassroots and highly successful Fejuve movement.


El Alto is connected to La Paz by three lines of the Mi Teleférico system. The city is connected to domestic and international destinations by El Alto International Airport.

See also

  • List of highest large cities in the world



Further reading

  • Lazar, Sian (2008), El Alto, Rebel City, Duke University Press, ISBN 978-0-8223-4154-3

External links

  • Weather in El Alto Archived 2020-10-06 at the Wayback Machine
  • El Alto Bolivia at Discover the World
  • El Alto Bolivia (in Spanish)—a blog
  • Cultura en las Alturas (in Spanish)
  • INE – Instituto Nacional de Estadística de Bolivia
  • "My Travels With Pope Francis in Latin America" by Jim Yardley, The New York Times

Text submitted to CC-BY-SA license. Source: El Alto by Wikipedia (Historical)