La Paz, officially Nuestra Señora de La Paz, is the national capital of Bolivia. La Paz is the third most populous city in the country after Santa Cruz de la Sierra and El Alto. The La Paz metropolitan area, which includes Viacha and El Alto, is Bolivia's largest urban area and home to about 2.3 million people. In 2019, La Paz has an estimated population of 790,000 people.
Today, La Paz is an important cultural center of Latin America. It's host to several colonial landmarks such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, the San Francisco Church, and the Plaza Murillo.
About 70% of the population of Bolivia as a whole live in urban areas like La Paz. The country is made up mostly of Quechua (46%) and Aymara (42%) but there are 37 minority indigenous groups. The most commonly spoken language is Spanish at 60% but dozens of other languages are spoken.
La Paz was founded in 1548 by Captain Alonso de Mendoza, a Spanish conquistador. It was named Nuestra Señora de La Paz, or "Our Lady of Peace," to commemorate peace after victory against Peru's first viceroy.
In the mid 16th century, an urban plan was designed that would designate sites for official buildings, public areas, plazas, and a cathedral. This plan was intended to express the ideals and relationships of Spanish colonial society. La Paz was controlled with a firm grip by Spain, and the Spanish King had the final say on any political matters during this time.
After a victory over the Spanish army in 1825 during the Spanish American wars, the city saw its full name changing to La Paz de Ayachucho ("The Peace of the Ayachucho").
Bolivia is South America's poorest nation. Urbanization has rapidly changed the face of the country yet 36% of the population remain in poverty. Outside of cities like La Paz, indigenous communities often lack access to sewage, electricity, and clean water. This has led many indigenous like the Aymara to move to urban centers for jobs and better access to services. Access to basic services remains low in La Paz and affordable, safe housing is a struggle. Despite these problems, the population of La Paz continues to grow at a steady rate.