The Bolivian Traffic Zebras of La Paz | Bolivia Hop

The Bolivian Traffic Zebras of La Paz

The Bolivian city of La Paz is truly incomparable to any other places you would visit. From the unique objects such as llama fetuses sold at the famous Witches´ Market, giant spires of the Moon Valley, to the stunning views from the cable car network Teleferico, this city breathes with a kind of atmosphere like no other. The locals love their hometown and are particularly proud of some of its more quirky aspects. One of these aspects has recently received international attention thanks to the US TV show ´Last Week Tonight´ with John Oliver, in which the TV star celebrated traffic guards dressed in zebra costumes, organizing chaotic traffic in Bolivian cities all while dancing and jumping in front of the cars.

Bolivian Traffic Zebras La Paz - Zebras in the show of John Oliver ´Last Week Tonight´ (21/03/2017)

                                Zebras on John Oliver’s ´Last Week Tonight´ show (21/03/2017)

I fell in love with the zebras from La Paz long before they became a Twitter sensation during my stay in Bolivia, when I actually became one. After this experience, I can only agree with John Oliver: zebras make everything better!

Quick Tip: Experience the thrill of biking the Bolivia Death Road, one of the most dangerous roads in the world! Enjoy amazing scenery as you descend from high-altitude mountains to jungle landscapes.

Bolivian Traffic Zebras La Paz - People dressed as zebras helping old women on the streets

                            Zebras, the traffic guards

Zebras was founded in 2001 as a socio-pedagogical program by dozens of passionate young people led by Kathia Salazar, or la Mamá Cebra, as Kathia is lovingly known around La Paz and across Bolivia. On one hand, the project employs vulnerable young people living in difficult socio-economic conditions. On the other, it serves as a holistic educational project that attempts to improve careless, dangerous drivers´ behavior and exhaustive traffic in the cities. Today, there are between 200 – 300 zebras brightening up pedestrians´ days across the country, being an indispensable part of Bolivian urban fabric.

Quick Tip: If travelling to or from Lima Airport, it is strongly recommended to use the luxury Airport Express Lima bus to get to or from your hotel. Safer and cheaper than a taxi with no baggage limit as well as free Wi-Fi and USB chargers onboard, it is ideal for travellers.
Bolivian Traffic Zebras La Paz - person dressed as zebra controlling the traffic on street

                                                     Zebras, the traffic guards taming the busy streets

 

Bolivian Traffic Zebras La Paz - person dressed as zebra hugging woman

Zebras transforming cities

Las cebras de la Paz, however, are so much more than that. When I met with zebras while participating in the project, I experienced La Paz from a perspective that no tourist tour could offer. Zebras not only guard the traffic with their bodies, but also participate in socio-cultural projects at schools and kindergartens, such as programs supporting healthy eating or urban gardens. Zebras do not shy away from taking on issues such as promoting reading for children, climate change or gender-based violence. In 2015, zebras´ efforts have been even recognized by UNESCO and celebrated as an intangible asset – urban educators and cultural cultivators that educate citizens and promote a culture of solidarity and respect.

If you pass La Paz and have at least four hours to spare one day, you, too, can become a zebra and have an ultimate Bolivian experience like no other. All you have to do is to contact the group on their social media page. You can be sure you will be welcomed into a very special family. Go on, #justaddzebras. It will put your whole travel journey into a new perspective.

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Bolivian Traffic Zebras La Paz - People dressed as zebras giving a kid holding a dog a present

                                              #justaddzebras

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