Americas - Issue 14 - Magazine | Monocle

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Mane street

La Paz

Bolivia’s administrative capital La Paz has just 70,000 vehicles on its roads but they have 14,000 accidents a year. So in 2005 the city began hiring youths dressed in zebra costumes to help people across the road at the city’s nine busiest intersections. The zebras also tease drivers who fail to honour the rules of the road.

“Little by little, people are paying attention to the zebras,” says Ruben Espinoza, a coordinator of the programme. Because of its success, the scheme is now set to spread to other congested cities such as Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.

It doesn’t get much busier than La Paz’s Plaza San Francisco on a Friday afternoon. Two zebras stand on the curb chatting with a teenage girl. Then something remarkable happens: the traffic light turns red, and at the sight of the zebras, the cars actually stop. One driver, however, is a little slow and the nose of his car is left hanging over the crossing. One of the zebras skips over to the offending car and mimes pushing it backwards. He then continues skipping across to the other side of the street.

“I was telling him that if he didn’t respect the crossing he’s no smarter than a donkey,” says Ivo Romero, the 18-year-old boy in the costume. Romero says friends covet his job, mostly for the €30 a month pay. He is taking poetry and eco-tourism classes, made possible by his job, which he thinks will make him a more responsible student – and, of course, pedestrian.

Dash for cash


Tourism on the Caribbean island of Curaçao is getting an unintended boost from Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Because of Venezuela’s falling currency, its middle class citizens are travelling en masse to neighbouring Curaçao to acquire dollars with their credit cards, which they then can sell on the black market back home for a profit. The Curaçao government has mandated that the dollar-hunting visitors stay at least four days, so that they have to spend money in its hotels and restaurants.

Monocle proposes the following animal agitators

Sewer rat: UK
The rats would remind people that too many pints will leave them passed out in their own vomit.

Shopping sow: USA
The porker would stand outside malls to caution consumers about the perils of the food court.

Panda: global
Roving shackled pandas could raise awareness about human-rights issues in China.

Chameleon: global
The ever-changing reptiles would follow candidates on their campaigns to keep them honest.

Polar bears: Gulf
Polar bears in Dubai would make locals think they’re in a cooler place so that they turn down the AC.

Hard bitten


It’s not the hurricane season that Americans will be dreading this summer – it’s mosquito season. Last year, 124 people across the US died from a mosquito-born disease called West Nile virus. And some of the most severe outbreaks are not in the swampy states of Louisiana and Missouri but in the Great Plain states such as the Dakotas and Nebraska.

“There’s a mosquito there that’s great at transmitting the virus and flood irrigation, the predominant land use, is the perfect breeding ground for it,” says Emily Zielinski-Gutierrez, a behavioural scientist at the Center for Disease Control. But even urban areas such as New York aren’t exempt. CDC suggests New Yorkers wear repellent and avoid the murky puddles of the city’s subway stations.

Election facts: it pays to vote


Voting is compulsory here and people can have their pay withdrawn for three months if they can’t prove that they have voted.

Conviction politicians


Over two million former prisoners in the US continue to be disenfranchised even after they have served their sentences.

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