Bolivia's New Order (23 photos)

From National Geographic: "The Altiplano and Bolivia's New Order After 500 years Bolivia's indigenous people—many from the sky-high Altiplano—return to power in a restless nation. "

The cloud-scraping plateau of the Andes is an otherworldly realm where flamingos lift off from a lagoon warmed by hot springs and colored carnelian by algae.  Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicMoonlight bathes Incahuasi Island, and outcropping of cacti and fossilized algae in the Uyuni salf flat. A great lake covered this area 16,000 years ago. When it dried up, it left a 4,000-square-mile basin of salt, the world's largest such deposit. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicT find new grazing, vicunas dash across a corner of the Uyuni salt flat. Just three feet tall, these animals produce wool so soft it was reserved for Inca royalty. Hunted almost to extinction, they're now protected and making a comeback. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicVehicles seem to float on a shimmering salt flat flooded by summer rains. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicWinter's relentless sun vaporizes snow to create spiky forms called "nieves penitentes" near the top of Pomerape Volcano, at 20,000 feet. Snow falls lightly at such extreme altitudes in the cold, dry climate along the Bolivia-Chile border. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicPiles of salt, scraped by pickax from the deposit at Uyuni, await transport by truck to a nearby processing plant. How much salt does this vast basin hold? Estimates range upward from ten billion tons - just one example of Bolivia's abundant mineral wealth, which includes tin, silver, zinc, and natural gas. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicRare puna flamingos make Laguna Colorada their main nesting ground. Also known as James's flamingos, the birds were thought extinct before a 1957 expedition discovered this colony, which now includes about 15,000 breeding pairs. During winter, when the air temperature here at 14,000 feet above sea level sometimes plunges to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, birds flock to the openings of the hot springs that keep Laguna Colorada warm. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicOn the Altiplahno, wind erodes rock into a modernist shape perched on a narrow base. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicThe shadow of Sajama - at 21,463 feet, Bolivia's highest peak - juts over the rugged Chilean coast. Bolivia lost access to the sea in the late 19th-century War of the Pacific, which embittered relations between the two countries. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicReflecting the color of the sky, scalding mud pots spatter, hiss, and belch steam stinking of sulfur at Sol de Manana, or morning sun. This primordial landscape lies just soutch of Laguna Colorada, the red lagoon where flamingos thrive. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicThe paisley swirls of a wild grass called "paja brava" pattern the Altiplano beneath rare thunderclouds. Few other plants can survive the extremes of this windswept region, where some spots get only ten inches of rain a year. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicDomesticated lamas spread across a spring-fed pasture at the edge of the Uyuni salt flat. Such creatures have provided communities in the Altiplanao with food, wool, and sturdy backs to bear burdens since before the time of the Inca. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicA Chipaya man walks through the sparsely populated Ayparavi Village in Oruro, Bolivia, on the morning of the 37th anniversary of the village's founding. Voters in native communities like Ayparavi made history in 2005 by electing one of their own as president. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicMarching to native Andean music and waving a Bolivian flag, residents of Ayparavi commemorate the founding of their village. The 2007 festivities included the usual dances and skits performed by schoolchildren, and speeches by officials, as well as one extraordinary event: the delivery of the community's first computer, provided by the government. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicGreeted like a rock star, President Evo Morales (center) arrives in the rural province of Chapare, where he once led the coca-growers' union, to inaugurate new schools - a top priority of his administration.  Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicBefore dawn a police squad prepares to head out on a search for cocaine labs.  Small farms near the rural town of Chimore have been battlegrounds in a controversial antidrug war backed by the U.S.  Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicIn the valley that cups La Paz, Bolivia's administrative capital, workers live near the rim at about 13,000 feet, where the air is thin. Big businesses and wealthier residents settle more comfortably down below. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicAymara women in traditionally styled uniforms clear weeds from a green at La Paz Golf Club. They earn about $100 a month. Members, from among the city's elite, pay an initial fee of $12,000, plus monthly dues, for the privilege of playing on one of the world's highest courses, at 11,000 feet. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicCostumed for Carnival, performers wait their turn to join Oruro's holiday parade, one of Latin America's largest such celebrations. Some 30,000 dancers and musicians swirl through the old silver mining city on a two-and-a-half mile route, entertaining a crowd of 400,000 from all over Bolivia and beyond. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicWorkers at Huanuni, Bolivia's largest tin mine, are government employees with guaranteed salaries. At private operations, miners must sometimes rely on luck to make money - and stay safe. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicMore than 500 feet below the Earth's surface, workers int he Huanuni tin mine gather around an effigy draped in Carnival streamers. He represents Uncle Oscar, the god of the underground minerals here. Offering up cigarettes and beer, as well as the coca leaves they chew to stave off hunger and fatigue, the men pray for safety and for large hauls of ore. Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicNear the entrance to the public university in Cochabamba, graffiti sharing a wall with leftist icons target the Movimiento Al Socialismo, Evo Morales's political party: "Down with the reforms of MAS!" Credit: George Steinmetz/National GeographicSons of the Altiplano, officials celebrate the founding anniversary of Ayparavi - one of just three communities where the 2,500 remaining Chipaya people live. Overhead, portraits of the great heroes of Bolivia's 19th-century fight for independence from Spain flank the national coat of arms. Credit: George Steinmetz/National Geographic

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