LA PAZ – The intersection of Avenida Camacho and Bueno de La Paz street is typically the scene of chaotic traffic jams with both drivers and pedestrians in a hurry – so it’s odd to see a zebra there singing, leaping around, dancing and stopping vehicles to let people cross the street.
They’re the zebras of La Paz that have become a heritage of the Bolivian capital as they seek to teach drivers and pedestrians how to create a more liveable city.
These striped equines gained fame in recent weeks when British show host John Oliver closed his “Last Week Tonight” program talking about them, though the La Paz zebras have been in the streets since 2001 as part of a municipal program carried out by volunteer youths who teach good civic manners and road safety.
The traffic light’s about to change, we get on the sidewalk,” said a girl zebra; meanwhile on the zebra crossing, another girl of the herd stops a car so that an elderly lady who started crossing the street at the last minute doesn’t get run over.
This nice young girl zebra called Luis Denis Sosa told EFE that their safety and that of the pedestrians come first.
Drivers, after some 15 years watching these delightful striped characters in the streets, are used to their dances and the work they do, so any possible problems tend to be dissipated.
Sosa has been a zebra for 3˝ years and is now coordinator of the zebra teams in Cotahuma, one of the really large districts of La Paz.
She goes out morning and afternoon for both of the day’s two shifts with some 15-20 zebras and helps distribute them around the area and provide them with whatever help they need, because some are still very young and need to “improve their zebra attitude,” she said.
“I’m here because the little things we zebras do make a big difference to our dear city of La Paz,” Sosa said.
Or as John Oliver reported on his program, every situation is better if you just add a zebra.