Before I arrived in Bolivia, I was told I would be able to find animals I have always dreamed of seeing since I was a child. “At last!” I thought: condors, eagles, jaguars, caimans… I definitely did know that Bolivia was one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and I was kind of ready for that. In spite of this though, La Paz still managed to surprise me. Yes, and I am sure it will sound unexpected for you as well if I told you that it is perfectly normal to find zebras jumping around in La Paz downtown!
Jokes aside, it is true: on the main and most dangerous crossroads of the city (the most crucial one being in front of San Francisco church), during morning rush hour groups of young people dressed like zebras help pedestrians cross the road allowing them to avoid risks of accidents that are quite common in the crazy traffic of La Paz.
Behind these funny characters and masks there is much more than you might think. Traffic zebras are often youngsters whose past was not so much fun. Some of them used to be addicted to drugs or never had a proper family and education, therefore ended up going down the wrong path. Local NGOs have set up a few different programs (traffic zebras is just one of them) to save this part of Bolivian youth and, along with pedestrians, the whole country is thankful for the great effort they are putting into this.
Not all zebras have sad stories to tell though: what if I told you can be a zebra for a day too? By contacting these local NGOs, you can volunteer for a day and experience what it feels like to be at the centre of attention of thousands of paceños rushing to work every morning (from time to time throughout the year there will be announcements all over the city when “this “Cebra Por 1 Día” campaign takes place). Don’t worry though: under your zebra mask no one will recognize you, so don’t be afraid of jumping, screaming, doing any weird moves you might think of! Feel free to express your craziness and always remember it is for a good cause. It might perfectly be the highlight of your whole experience in La Paz.