The city of El Alto in Bolivia is predominantly drab with thousands of low, matchbox-like brick houses lining dusty, unpaved roads but there is a change afoot. Self-taught architect Freddy Mamani Silvestre is spearheading an architectural revolution. The brightly coloured buildings he designs are dubbed cholets, from the words chalet, which means large house, and chola, a pejorative term for the indigenous Aymara people.
The election of 2005 of Aymaran Evo Morales as president led to a new self-confidence among this marginalized people and by 2012 about 1.2 million Bolivians had become middle class. Mamani’s architecture is a symbol of this newfound confidence and economic blossoming.