Image: via Wikipedia
It’s perhaps fitting, then, that a road in an area with such a deadly history should be built during a time of war. The late 1920s and early 1930s saw Bolivia engaged in conflict with neighboring Paraguay over control of the then supposedly oil-rich Gran Chaco plain. The so-called Chaco War resulted in the deaths of roughly 100,000 men – a higher toll than any other conflict waged on the continent throughout the 20th century.
The conflict ceased in the summer of 1935, with Paraguay subsequently awarded most of the contested territory when a treaty was signed three years later. This horrific war, however, served as a chilling precursor to the tragedy and death that would transpire on the North Yungas Road.
Image: Alex Proimos
Indeed, El Camino de la Muerte, as the North Yungas Road would come to be known, began life thanks to the toil of captured Paraguayan soldiers during this period of bloodshed. There were approximately 2,500 such prisoners of war in Bolivia six months before the conflict died down, and they were put to work on the country’s infrastructure.