Views 10 Mar Both Sucre and Potosí: history, tragedy, richness and culture of Bolivia
 |  Category: Culture and Curiosities

Crossing the border from La Quiaca, Argentina to Villazón in Bolivia is like stepping into a different world. Say goodbye to the very comfortable buses, to the warm climate, the lovely empanadas and to drinking lots of mate de yerba. Say hello to the bumpy unpaved roads, freezing high mountain tops, food stalls on every corner, shoeshine boys trying to make a few pennies and coca leaves to combat altitude sickness. It sounds like chaos, but in the disorganization is Bolivias charm, it is vibrant, eclectic and exciting – a world away from Western culture.

Both Sucre and Potosí: history, tragedy, richness and culture of Bolivia

Of all the countries in Latin America, the influence of the colonial times can still be seen most prominently in Bolivia, where the occupation by the Spanish lasted nearly three hundred years.  One of the best preserved cities from this era is Sucre – "La ciudad blanca" – declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its beautiful colonial architecture. The city center is built around the main Square "25 de mayo" and is full of churches and colonial buildings, which are worth it to visit. In fact: walk into every open standing door and you will see beautiful patios with trees and stunning marble floors. For spectacular views climb the cathedral tower on the main square – you’ll be amazed by the vast expanse of white buildings in the city.  Sucre too is a good place to become acquainted with and enjoy the typical folkloric dances of Bolivia – head down to the ‘Origines’ bar for traditional dancing and great food.

Both Sucre and Potosí: history, tragedy, richness and culture of Bolivia

After the cultural richness of Sucre, Potosí feels vacant and dull.  It is the world’s highest city at 4,000m above sea level. In the time of the Spanish reign it was one of the richest & most powerful cities in the continent because of the large amounts of silver found in the nearby ‘ Cerro Rico’. The history of the region is sad – thousand of slaves worked and died in the silver mines over many years.  Then after the Bolivian independence the city was robbed of all its silver and left with nothing.  If you want to learn more about the mining conditions during the Spanish reign you should visit the mines.  Today, the mines are still open and worked by  thousands of people digging for tin in terrible conditions. They will be happy to share with you the history of the mines and city itself, in return for some Coca leaves. You should also visit the Casa de la Moneda, where you can see the fabrics in which they produced silver coins for many years.

Both Sucre and Potosí showcase history, tragedy, richness and culture of Bolivia.  It is well worth it the hassle to get there, but keep in mind to bring warm clothes and a rain jacket!

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  1. I love this post

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