New Andean Architecture

Since the election of President Evo Morales Ayma in 2006, Bolivia has seen a tremendous resurgence of national and indigenous pride – and one of the shining examples of that pride is reflected in a new architectural style dotting the growing city of El Alto. Called the New Andean Architecture, it stands out from neighboring buildings due its height, curvy and geometric lines, and the striking use of color.

Situated on the Andean altiplano, EL Alto looms over the capital city of La Paz, which is located in the valley below. Proudly Aymara, the city is home to over a million inhabitants – indeed, it is larger than La Paz now – and the architecture that shows the pride is bold and dynamic. The main architect behind this new movement, Freddy Mamani Silvestre, is a young self-taught architect who doesn’t use a computer or even have an office where he draws up plans. Instead, he uses pen and paper on-site and shows the next steps to his workers as they are building.

There are other names used to describe this style – ‘cohetillo’, which means spaceship, ‘cholets’, a mix of chalet and cholo – but Mamani Silvestre finds them disparaging. The typical New Andean building is owned by a single family and is five or more stories high. The first floor is rented out for commercial shops, the second floor is usually a two story-high events salon available for weddings or baptisms, and then a floor or two for rented apartments or for the owner’s children. Topping the building is almost always an small independent house, with gabled roofs and large windows, often complete with patio, doghouse and resident dog even, for the owners themselves.

Decorating the outside of the building, and the events salon inside, are simple bold designs that echo the pre-Incan civilization of Tiwanaku that many in the Aymara culture strongly identify with. In the introduction to her book on Mamani Silvestre’s architecture, published earlier this year, Elisabetta Andreoli writes, “…to gradually reduce figurative elements to their essential geometric forms was traditional in pre-Colombian cultures from the Altiplano, as was the use of juxtapositions, repetitions, diagonals, duplicity and negative as formal approaches.” On top of those designs however are strikingly bright colors, completed with reflective glass in the windows and bright LED lights and heavy chandeliers in the interior events salons. Andreoli writes, “The Andean custom of using bright colors in weaving to counterbalance the monochromatic tones of the Andean altiplano is well known…Colors and decorations have maintained their relevance in the urban setting. This can be seen in the rich range of colors and motifs displayed on the fabric of the pollera skirs worn in the cities.”

More info:

‘A Colorful Bolivian Bastion, Floating Above It All’

‘Mamani pide por respeto no llamar ‘cholets’ a la arquitectura andina’

‘Con la nueva burguesía aymara nace en Bolivia la arquitectura “neoandina’

‘Mamani Silvestre, Freddy’

La Arquitectura de Freddy Mamani Silvestre by Elisabetta Andreoli and Ligi D’Andrea. 2014.

Note: All pictures are from the book and were taken by Alfredo Zeballos.


{ posted 268 days ago, under bolivia }

hello and ~ The Internet Archive does it again, hooray!

hi there ~ i know, gone for a while, and now something a bit different, mainly in that it is capitalized properly. ;) hope your summer was excellent and hope to post an update on life oh life soon, but in short: all is good, and in fact, perhaps great. happy september. ~ andrea


Through the advantages of OCR (optical character recognition), and thanks to organizations like the Internet Archive and digitization projects at countless library and academic institutions worldwide, we now have digital access to more books than the average person could ever have had not that long ago. However, the emphasis has been on the printed word for the most part – until now.

According to a BBC article, an expert at big data and the Yahoo! fellow at Georgetown University, Kalev Leetaru has uploaded so far over 2.6 million copyright-free photos and drawings to Flickr (owned by Yahoo!) as part of a project that pulls the images from over 2 million books found in the Internet Archive. The earliest images date back to 1500, and the latest ones up to 1922, due to copyright reasons, with the plan being to upload over 10 million more images. To get those images, Leetaru wrote a program that searches the Internet Archive’s publicly-accessible files for images and then extracts them, as well as pulling out metadata info such as title, creator, tags, and the preceding and following text that surrounded the images. This makes the images searchable, such as “stars” or London” – and once an image captures the searcher’s interest, they can find a link to the original text available in its entirety at the Internet Archive.

Hoping to finish the project by the end of next year, Leetaru told the BBC,
“What I want to see is… Wikipedia have a national day of going through this to illustrate Wikipedia articles…Take a random page about a historical event and there’s probably a good chance that you’re going to find an image in here that bears in some way on that event or location….Being able to basically enrich [them] would be huge.”

Check out the Flickr stream here:

More info:
‘Millions of historic images posted to Flickr’

‘Welcome the Internet Archive to The Commons’

‘Millions of historical images posted to Flickr’

‘Time travel through millions of historic Open Library images’

From 1557's Prodigiorvm ac ostentorvm chronicon
From Prodigiorvm ac ostentorvm chronicon(1557)

from 1919's The Call of the Stars
From The Call of the Stars (1919)

From 1886's The Oist
From The Oist (1886)

From 1908's Children and Gardens/></a><br />
<a href=
From Children and Gardens (1908)


{ posted 269 days ago, under web-talk & books }

book reading update, week 2

hello! as you can see*, it’s a beautiful saturday morning here in la paz, and we have a party to go to this afternoon outside of the city, but i wanted to write a quick update on how the book reading is going.

first off: i’m already behind on my 52-books-in-one-year challenge. surprise, surprise! ;) i’m about 70% through Hild – i still like it quite a lot, but it’s very dense text, i can’t just skim over it like an albatross skims over the waves in the sea. (yikes, what a metaphor. and albatross? really, there’s got to be a better bird to use that has less doom and gloom associated with it. poor albatross.) nope, this book makes me pause and re-read and then mutter a bit out loud and so on. not because of its weighty ideas but because of the language – it’s gorgeous, yes, but oh my lordy, so archaic! and then it reads like a russian novel, with a billion and one characters, but at least they don’t each have half a dozen nicknames like good old Tolstoy. anyhow, so far, so good. i’m taking my time with that one.

but! i found a bunch of excellent fantasy/science fiction books in Spanish, actually written by Bolivians – which is so cool, because i don’t know Bolivian literature at all, much less literature in the fantastic genre which i so very much love. i found a collection of Andean mythology, and i swear my heart sped up triple-time when i spotted it. so awesome. also, i started reading an anthology of fantastic fiction yesterday called Vértigos and already read two stories. hooray!

and! i’ve committed to read Middlemarch by George Eliot – i have to have two hundred pages read by the end of the month. yup, a 900+ book, known for its weighty nature indeed.

so. reading this month is going swimmingly. knock on wood. happy weekend!

*this is part of the view from our bedroom & a big reason as to why we grabbed this apartment as soon as we found it. <3 you should have seen new years’ eve from here…!

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{ posted 495 days ago, under books }

reading in 2014


i won’t even pretend that i’ll post here again soon, much less catch you – whoever you are ;) – up on what’s been going on in my life. in a way, these infrequent posts over the past handful of years (!) prove to me that this site is what i always thought it was, albeit sometimes getting caught up in other ideas for it: a place for me to put ideas or notes or whatever that i want to access in the future. that’s it. it’s not for creating a following, making money, or even really informing others on things i know. i mean, if people follow a link i post and learn something, yay for that, but it’s not my goal at all. i keep up with family and friends in other ways, including digital ways, so this site here is now very simply just for me – and if it’s interesting to you too, then welcome. ;)

anyhow, to sum up the last handful of months: i was pregnant, had a second baby girl who is currently hiccuping on my chest as she tries to nap, oh and we moved days before she was born, and i finally got my double citizenship papers all done and just yesterday received my national id card. so, we’re really doing it – the whole living-in-bolivia-for-ever(ish) with kidS and all that. oh and we’re building a house too! exciting times. busy times. a lot of my personal interests have been largely put on hold temporarily and sometimes they still insisted on nagging me.

this year though, hello 2014, even with a newborn and toddler to wrestle, i’m determined to make a little more time for them, especially books. oh books, i miss you! it’s mostly ebooks nowadays, at least until starts free shipping to bolivia at least. :( so, last year i read a grand total of… wait for it.. 23 books. twenty-three!! that’s pathetic. my goal was 100. in 2012, i read over 70. anyway, at least they were almost all good books, and a handful were great to boot. i was thinking about not having a reading goal this year, but once again, the shiny widgets of goodreads tempted me and before i knew it i had committed to reading 52 books this year. but i also want to add two additional challenges: 1) read 12 non-fiction science books, and 2) read 12 books in spanish. now, for #2, those books do not have to be adult books, and in fact most of them will be middle grade books, and that is ok by me. it’s hard for me to read in spanish – i’m so darn sllllooowww and it drives me crazy. i’m faster if i read out loud but that gets old quick.

i’m going to try and post here when i start or finish new books each week or month as the case may be, in hopes of posting more. because clearly, whenever i do post, i babble away for paragraphs, long paragraphs! i’m currently halfway through Hild by Niccola Griffith and it’s as great as promised. for the spanish challenge, i’m considering Uma y el tren a las estrellas by Mariana Ruiz Romero -here’s a short youtube video based on it, done by illustrators of the book i believe. and then for the science challenge, i’m eyeing Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements by Hugh Aldersey-Williams, Forests: The Shadow of Civilization by Robert Pogue Harrison, or Here On Earth: A Natural History of the Planet by Tim Flannery.

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{ posted 503 days ago, under familia! & books }

a midnight grouch

i’ve been fighting sleep for hours – it comes in waves, and when on the ebb, i think oh yay, i have energy so when this baby finally sleeps, i can do things!, but then back comes the wave and i’m rubbing at my eyes like a certain sleepy two year old i know, fighting sleep while absolutely losing the fight.

there’s so much i want to do – today, tomorrow, yesterday, this hour, four hours ago, next year, next month, five years from now, two years ago, but it’s really really hard at times to see that any of that will ever come to be. i’ve had a fear of failure for years now, with the very real risk of not even trying for my dreams (ha, dreams! even dinner at times seems out of reach. stretching ever day for just a few minutes. reading a book once a week. dreams?! that’s like beyond crazy-sounding at times. anyhow.) because i don’t want to screw them up and look and/or feel like a fool —- but at times like these, the fear of failure seems more serious, or cleaner or easier, something like that, than what i’m dealing with: straight out tiredness. a sapping of the energy in my soul. ugh!

thank goodness, it’s nothing like the first year of n’s life when i was pretty much constantly under slept. its not like that horrible no good very bad zombie-like time. seriously i get why sleep deprivation is an often used torture technique. it works, folks, it really does. so anyhow, it’s not that bad – it’s much better in fact, but still not good enough – at least for my lazy butt – to get more than the minimum done each day. the apartment is relatively clean (i.e. not very clean, but not totally embarrassing if we’re surprised with guests), i cook meals fairly regularly (even go on little cooking sprees ever couple weeks or so), we do a bunch of family stuff regularly like movies and outings. all of these things are very important and i do appreciate them a lot. they are what make my day, besides the smiles and hugs and kisses i get from my man and my baby.

but lordy geez, i must be really catching up finally on the sleep deprivation thing, because i want more. greedy me, i want to learn, to study, to make things, to figure things out – to use this brain of mine in more ways that i have been for a long time. but then i think about that, at 11:59 pm, and the baby just went to sleep 14 minutes ago, after over an hour of rolling around the bed, sticking her butt in the air (great downward dog), figuring out how to squeeze her toys just right to activate the little sound box in some of them (oh hooray), then throwing them around, then throwing herself at me while murmuring sweet words “mama, mama” over and over, then off she goes again rolling and rolling around, repeating the cycle, and oh, i just cannot fathom having any energy besides maybe opening facebook for a minute or maybe a bookmarked one-day-i’ll-read-you random web page and then throwing off my glasses and if i’m lucky, change in to pjs and crash into bed myself.

i tell myself – and others tell me too – that it is good she is my, and our, priority right now – she’s only two and you can see already that all this focus on her from her parents has been good for her. this time passes quickly, they say, and i know that logically – but i worry too about time passing quickly for me as well. i’m no spring chicken, and i feel it with every crick and crack my body makes when i get up in the morning. i guess i have to trust that things will work out – but it’s hard to just trust when one day seems to just run into the next, and it feels like i have very little to show for all this time passing.

i have no neat answer or ending to this whiny frustrated but also very grateful and loving post – seriously, i love my little family and wouldn’t trade them for anything anywhere ever – but it feels good to have just gotten it out there, wherever ‘there’ is. mostly, if anyone reading this has felt that way too, oh i feel your pain and frustration. this is one of the hardest parts of being a parent, it really is: i miss my time and my time is passing.

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{ posted 652 days ago, under cranky }

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