La Paz (lä päs) [key], city (1992 pop. 713,378), W Bolivia, administrative capital (since 1898) and largest city of Bolivia. The constitutional capital is Sucre. La Paz, the highest capital in the world, lies at an altitude of c.12,000 ft (3,660 m) and is crowded into a long, narrow valley cut by the La Paz River. The site, where there was an Inca village, was chosen by Alonso de Mendoza in 1548 because it offered a modicum of protection in winter from the wind and cold of the barren high plateau c.1,400 ft (430 m) above. Because of the narrowness of the valley, the city could not be laid out in the customary Spanish gridiron pattern. The Plaza Murillo, named after the independence leader Pedro Domingo Murillo, with the national palace, cathedral, and other buildings, is small; there are only a few broad, long avenues, and the streets ascend steeply on either side. Since the climate is generally cool and extreme variations in temperature are common, what flowers and trees there are must be carefully tended. La Paz's location on colonial trade routes made it the commercial and political focus of colonial life; some of the colonial architecture remains. La Paz is an agricultural market and has light manufacturing industries. Its Univ. of San Andrés was founded in 1830, and a Catholic university in 1966. There are extraordinary tourist attractions in the region, notably the Andean peaks Illimani and Illampú, Lake Titicaca, the ruins of Tiahuanaco, and the adjacent tropical yungas. The city's full name is La Paz de Ayacucho, after a Bolivian victory at Ayacucho, Peru, in the war for independence (1809–25).
See more Encyclopedia articles on: South American Political Geography