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San Pedro Prison

Listed under Visitor Attractions in La Paz, Bolivia.

  • Photo of San Pedro Prison
  • Photo of San Pedro Prison
Photo of San Pedro Prison
Photo by flickr user Paolo Mañalac
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Supposed 'tours' of La Paz's notorious prison have straddled the boundaries of fact and fiction for a few years now. Stories recounted by daring travellers resonate in the ears belonging to the curious; cocaine fuelled visits, enlightening conversations with prisoners, the realisation of being supremely ripped off by a very different form of travel guide and methods of entry are just a few past accounts.

San Pedro has over 1500 inmates, some foreign to La Paz, others who have never left the continent. To say that the prison is a tourist attraction would take voyeurism to another level, but it can't be ignored that the prison houses many an interesting tale. Since the prison experience is unknown to many, it can be said that San Pedro is defined by what it isn't. Prisoners are said to pay for their own cells, the poorer sharing hovel-like rooms while the richer equip their lodgings with televisions, DVDs and sound systems. Families are allowed to stay, as are prostitutes and inmates make a living from carpentry, barber work and other 'activities'. San Pedro has system; it's a microcosm of activity erring on the side of myth but unquestionably caught up in a system of corruption.

Written by  Sybilla Harvey.

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