LA PAZ - Industrial waste and junk from the information society are turning up this week in some of La Paz's most prominent Christmas decorations as part of a municipal campaign to create innovative holiday scenery by educating the Bolivian public about recycling.
A few families gathered outside city hall around a peculiar Christmas tree.
The leaves are not natural, but they are not the well-known plastic imitations either. Instead, they are discarded compact discs replaced by newer devices.
Minutes before the LED lights that will keep the tree bright until Christmas ends are lit, a city worker using a crane replaced the star on the tree with a bigger one.
In the background, candles made from more discarded CDs decorate city hall's fašade.
Juana Zeballos, a middle-aged woman who came to see the lighting of the tree with two children, appreciated the novelty of the materials.
"It is pretty, it is excellent, we are recycling," Zeballos, who attends the tree lighting ceremony every year, told EFE.
"The idea was to use discarded materials," Christmas tree designer and city worker Daniela Zegarra said.
La Paz residents were guided this year to 10 sites across the city designated for the collection of CDs that were no longer being used.
In a previous Christmas, the same square was decorated with a tree made of plastic bottles, and three others to be lighted simultaneously in the city this year are made from traffic lights or LEDs, Zagarra said.
At the most popular display, located in downtown's Plaza de San Francisco, hundreds of people gathered this week awaiting the magical moment when the lights are turned on.
Musical groups kept people entertained while workers put the finishing touches on a creche with all the figures, including the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, baby Jesus, the Three Magi, the ram, the ox, the donkey and even a llama, which cannot be left out in Bolivia, made of scrap iron.
As the tree was lighted, La Paz Mayor Luis Revilla said the municipal Christmas trees used "a kilometer of lights."
"We will give the gifts of fraternity, love, friendship, care and unity before any other material stuff," Revilla said.
The multi-colored bulbs began blinking on the tree and all the other decorations around the plaza, while people took pictures with their latest-generation smartphones, a children's choir sang on the stage and young couples performed traditional dances.