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Potosi and Sucre
Circuits
 

-Sucre and surroundings 3 days
-Imperial cities 5 days

-Sucre adventure 1 to 3 days

   
More information:
 

-The fight of the last Inca
-Tinku, Ritual combat
- Potosi, Sucre, Tarabuco...presentation


Streets of Potosi
   
Sucre : Capital of Bolivia
   
Bolivians Miners
   
 

 


POTOSI, SUCRE, TARABUCO... INTRODUCTION
 
HISTORY OF THE AREA

In 1545, a group of conquistadors established themselves near Kantumarka, an area of Porco which is near Potosi. Virtually a servant to one of these Spaniards, Diego Huallpa reportedly saw “silver crying” from this pyramidal reddish mountain. He and his compatriots were far from just imagining that the conquistadors had just acquired one of the world’s largest treasures. A few years later, under the reign of the Emperor Charles Quint, the city received the title of Imperial City. Potosí became then, like the historian Fernand Braudel said, “the economic center of the world”. During this period, Potosí with its 160 000 inhabitants, was one of the largest cities in the world, with a larger population at the time than Paris. Silver flowed from the “rich mountain”, the Cerro Rico, of which another great Emperor, the Inca Huayna Kapak, already recognized the wealth but was unable to touch is. According to the legend, when they decided to exploit its wealth, the mountain, in a terrifying voice, told the Incas that the product of its bowels were destined for an empire other than theirs. The name of Potosí (poto's-jsi in Quechua) comes from this tremor, from this explosion preceding the birth of a new economic system.
Just twenty years after the creation of the city, the whole regional economy progressively started to assemble itself around Potosí. Its wealth reached neighboring, Charcas (today’s Sucre) that later became a university town and one of the most important judicial centers of the Empire. Further to the South, the town of Tarija (at the time called San Bernardo de la Frontera) owes its existence to the Imperial City that gave it the responsibility of the production of vegetables, fruits, wine and Singani (Bolivia’s national liquor, similar to Pisco). Further away, large llama caravans crossed passes between mountains, deserts and Pampa in the direction of the urban centers of the Spanish Empire: Lima and Buenos Aires. Every year, Potosí offered them 500 000 pesos (un peso = one once of silver!) to help their economy. Along these roads were written the most dramatic episodes in this era of colonialism: the silver rush  (and the million deaths it caused), to the first revolts, that led to the independence of the Spanish colonies in South America in 1825. Writer Bartolomé Arzans de Orsua y Vela, has written a history full of regional anecdotes. Yesterday’s Eldorado for silver miners, the Salar de Uyuni and the desert of the South of Lípez are today the promised land of sensational beauty. This route of silver will offer you the most powerful moments of your trip to Bolivia.

 
SUCRE
“Charcas the beautiful”, the town with four names; this gem of baroque and Renaissance art is the most European of all the Bolivian cities and without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in Latin America. Founded by Pedro de Anzures, marquis of Campo Redondo, under the orders of Pizarro, in 1538, Sucre was meant to become the residence and center of the Spanish bourgeoisie. Located in a basin of the Eastern Cordillera at the foot of the Sica Sica and Churuquella mountains, it counts as the first [European?] town established inside the continent, the oldest in South America. According to its inhabitants, the highest mountain is the “Macho” (the male) and the smallest one the “Hembra” (the female). The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano refers to them as “mountains in love”. Sucre is the white city for sleepless nights. Admiring the architecture and visiting museums during the day, the bars and cafes at night, seems the best way to enjoy what will without a doubt be the “pascana” like they would say in Santa Cruz (a stage of the trip where one rests and eats before continuing the journey). From there you can also trek, go hunt cave paintings and, more than anything, discover some of the most surprising centers of traditional Bolivian culture: the market of Tarabuco and the villages of J'alqa where the most beautiful fabrics in Latin America are made. From an architectural standpoint, Sucre gets its charm from having stayed virtually frozen in time like a postcard from the 19’s century. A European air emanates from the whole city--the buildings, the plazas and the gardens--and for good reasons: the aristocracy of Sucre, attracted and seduced by European art, tried to reproduce it at home. Unfortunately, an earthquake, in 1948, forced the renovation of a large part of the colonial center. That is why, you should not be surprised by the rich variety of styles you will see there. This eclecticism can only increase the enchantment Charcas the beautiful holds over the visitor.
 
Carnaval dances of TARABUCO

The Phujllay. The originality of the dress worn during this festival could be compared to the crazy creations of the high fashion world For the event, men wear a black shirt made out of tocuyo (c'uyo, local traditional fabric) and short white pants over which they wear a kind of black boxer short, with golden stripes and red designs on their back sides. Around the waist, they wear a belt called “chumpi” or “faja” that holds at the same time a little bright red, yellow and black poncho (the siquiunku), and a second leather belt with pockets. Over one of their shoulders, is thrown a little poncho (the unku) on top of which they wear a more festive one covered with very bright patterns. Over this poncho, they tie a large purple scarf, the color of joy. On their head, under the “montera”, they wear a headpiece made out of two wide pieces of embroidered fabric dropping over their shoulders. Their feet and part of their calves are protected with high wool socks. Finally, they wear high sandals (“ojotas” or “abarcas”) made out of wood and rubber, ornamented with enormous iron spikes. These original shoes weigh approximately 10 lbs each. Only men over the age of fifteen can dance the phujllay, and tradition requires that adult men dress the young men. The eldest woman of the community is usually responsible for providing the dress. For the young man’s family, this ritual constitutes a great honor. The dance is accompanied by music played with traditional wind instruments as well as percussion. The Ayarichi. This dance, originally a funerary, was played in honor of the victims of the battle of Jumbate.
The men’s dress is similar in this event to the one of the phujllay. They wear on their head a hat in “fieltro” and, on their shoulders, the ayarichi, a purple poncho or unku. The use of this color, in this dance, becomes a sign of mourning. On their feet, they wear rubber sandals. Two women accompany each dancer. The dress of the women includes a wide dark blue skirt (the almilla), reaching below the knees. The women themselves have woven the rest of the dress. Above the skirt, on the waist, a large stripe of fabric (the aksu), on the shoulders, a llijlla, kind of woven cape held by two brooches (the “topos”), linked by a silver chain. Over the llijlla, a white scarf, a sign of purity. On their head, they wear a hat in the shape of a Chinese pagoda, decorated with silver threads. In the middle of their forehead is attached a strip decorated with silver coins. During the dances, the women have a small white flag in one hand and with the other they hold the man’s hand to form a half circle.

 
POTOSI, the Imperial city

Located at over 4 000 meters above sea level, hit by the blizzards of the Andes and by the sun, the Imperial city of Potosí, the eighth wonder of the world as the Spanish writer from the 17s century Don Diego de Ocana describes it. After three centuries of fasting, the ancient center of the New World is today a sleepy town nested at the foot of what created its fame, the Cerro Rico. The thirty-three churches and convents, the impressive colonial houses and the fabulous Casa de la Moneda stay frozen in time, looking like a stage set.
It was truly the Eldorado, but a city made of silver instead of gold. During four centuries, Potosí was the navel of colonial Spain as Cuzco was, for one century, was the one of the Inca Empire. European commerce during Renaissance times would never have known the progress it did without the silver of Potosí. Historians estimate that, since 1545 and until the independence of South America, Europe generated about 50 billion dollars in silver bullions and makukinas (coins minted at the Casa de la Moneda). These treasures coming from the rich colony were transported aboard Spanish ships. This number does not include the coins that were distributed each year to Lima, Buenos Aires or Santiago, or that were exchanged among local merchants. At its peak, Potosí was a paradise of pleasures, of luxury, where bacchanals took place with great regularity. The silver blood of the mines allowed the creation of the most prestigious projects, including one to create an Art school in town. At its head was the painter Melchor Perez de Holguin, imprinted on the 10 Boliviano bills.
According to explorer Alexander Von Humboldt, between 1545 and 1802, the production of the mine reached one billion ounces of metal. In other words, 40,000 tons of silver. This estimate gives an idea of the influx that irrigated the entie European economy of the time. It is true that the Spanish kings could build the Escorial palace, near Madrid, thanks to this income. It is also true that Seville, where was located the Casa de Contratacion, (responsible for the exchanges with the Indies) was located, took advantage of this inexhaustible wealth. But Spain or Portugal, like all nations with an economy based on natural resources, became progressively poorer instead of more wealthy. The combined effect of the Spanish Inquisition--fruit of the Counter-Reformation--and the suicidal economic politics generated the artificial prolongation of the Middle Ages on the Iberian Peninsula. The real beneficiaries of Potosí were the productive and mercantile European nations, producers for the Spanish crown: England, Switzerland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. While Spain increased exports from these countries, its own economy crashed while its debts increased continually. Potosí, that paved the trail to Capitalism, was responsible for the decline of Spain and of its oblivious royalty, the Hapsbourg and the Bourbons, into a state of an under-developed country. This succession of economic phenomena explains, in part, the under-developed state of Bolivia that has not been able to free itself from its destiny as a wealth producer for the rest of the world, a doleful destiny of watching its wealth disappear while remaining empty handed.

 
 
   

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