La Paz Day is celebrated on July 16 each year. The city of La Paz has many claims to fame but one they are particularly proud of — they helped spark the Bolivian war for independence, a fact they celebrate every La Paz day. On this day more than 200 years ago, the Bolivians first began to fight against the Spanish colonial powers that had controlled their land for centuries. Many historians believe this first spark lit the fire that inspired every Bolivian’s fight for freedom and caused a revolution in the country. La Paz day, which is colloquially called ‘Día del departamento de La Paz’ is observed as a regional holiday in the city. Don’t confuse this day with the Bolivian Independence Day, however, as that is celebrated by the entire country on August 6, as that was the day they officially gained their freedom.
History of La Paz day
Bolivia has been under colonial administration since Spanish explorers discovered the region, which was then part of the Incan Empire. The indigenous people resisted this imposed control, and confrontations between them and the Spanish conquistadors occurred frequently. These conflicts, on the other hand, were minor in scope and did not involve a united majority, which has been a feature of every freedom struggle around the world.
The first large-scale ‘flames’ of nationalism arose only at the turn of the 19th century, with a patriot named Pedro Domingo Murillo. While the ‘Primer Grito libertario’ (meaning ‘first shout of freedom’) as the Bolivians call it, took place in Sucre city in May 1809, it was the events that happened only two months later that fanned the spark of revolution among the natives.
Murillo united all the ‘mestizos’ — people of mixed South American and European descent — against the ruling Spaniards in La Paz, which was called Upper Peru back then. He declared the land as a newly independent state, thus beginning the Spanish-American wars of independence, which were a series of military campaigns that led numerous countries, modern-day Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile, among others, to political freedom from Spanish rule. While Bolivia did have to wait 16 more years to be completely free, the city of La Paz never forgets the day or events that started this fight. They commemorate Murillo and his declaration, plus the events surrounding this day in their celebrations on La Paz day.
La Paz day timeline
Spanish explorers discover a region that is partly inhabited by independent tribes and partly part of the Inca Empire — they take control here immediately.
Pedro Domingo Murillo declares freedom against Spanish colonial powers at La Paz, which succeeds informally initiating an almost two-decades-long war that ends with Bolivia's independence.
The 'Nuestra Señora de La Paz' becomes 'La Paz de Ayacucho' or 'The Peace of Ayacucho.'
Plaza Mayor in the central part of La Paz is renamed 'Plaza 16 de Julio' — 'July 16 Plaza' in English — in honor of Pedro Domingo Murillo.
La Paz day FAQs
What is La Paz and why is it important?
La Paz is one of the most important cities in Bolivia. A major cultural center, this place has countless museums, cathedrals, and monuments left over from colonial times. La Paz is also Bolivia’s seat of political and administrative power.
How high is La Paz above sea level?
La Paz is at least 3,625 km above sea level.
Is La Paz the highest capital in the world?
While not a capital, La Paz is certainly a city that boasts a higher altitude than any other city in the world. It is located at a height of 11, 942 feet.
Why does Bolivia have two capitals?
It doesn’t, as Sucre city is the official capital, and La Paz is only a de-facto capital that was established in 1898. Effectively, La Paz is only the administrative ‘capital’ while Sucre is the constitutional capital of the nation.
La Paz day Activities
Learn about Pedro Domingo Murillo
This patriot is one of the most important and revered figures in Bolivian history. Read and learn more about this fascinating person from resources online and offline.
Explore La Paz
For those travel freaks, a trip to Bolivia is a great way to immerse yourself in local customs and culture. If you'd rather explore La Paz from the comfort of your home, you could explore the city's indigenous identity through various articles and artwork, check out authentic Bolivian cuisine, and take a 'virtual tour' of the region via other travelers' videos and articles.
Connect with Bolivian culture
Pick top artists, musicians, books, movies, and other items that are famous for their portrayal of Bolivian culture. Explore how facets and influences from colonial cultures — primarily Spanish — have shaped today’s Bolivia, and identify how the music, art, etc., you’ve picked have merged native and colonial culture.
5 Interesting Facts About La Paz
They were the first to get electricity
Electricity came to La Paz before any other South American city, and it was powered by Ilama dung initially.
Murillo's home is now a museum
The martyr's home was preserved and now displays various colonial furniture, art, and textiles.
Their bus station was designed by Eiffel
Gustave Eiffel, the genius behind the Eiffel Tower, designed the La Paz Bus Station, which originally functioned as a bus and train station.
The world's longest cable car network
Called “Mi Teleferico,” this urban gondola system stands up at a height of 11,913 feet and is almost 30 km long.
The backward clock
A public clock on the House of Congress building runs backward deliberately so that indigenous people can get back to their roots and rediscover their identity.
Why We Love La Paz day
This day has a long history
Their fight began almost two hundred years ago and went on for 16 long years. Their dedication to their cause inspires our own celebrations.
We think La Paz is awesome
The views alone are nothing short of amazing. Add to this the rich cultural heritage and we have an incredible region.
We're learning about Murillo too
One person can indeed change the course of history, as we've seen in Murillo's case. He's certainly not the only patriot who led Bolivia to independence, but his actions started the region down a path to freedom. We enjoy learning about and honoring such a great person.
La Paz day dates