Sucre is located in the south-central part of Bolivia and is also known as Charcas, La Plata, and Chuquisaca. Nowadays, it is often referred to as the White City and it is the best preserved colonial city in Boliva. Compared to Lake Titicaca where we came from, it is considerably lower in altitude but still quite high at 2,810 meters. Many people say that the highlight of Sucre is its relaxed atmosphere. It probably felt this way because it used to be the retreat for the wealthy who made their fortunes from the silver mines in Potosi nearby. While La Paz is where the seat of the government lies, Sucre is still the symbolic capital and heart of Bolivia. The Bolivian independence of 1809 was started with the ringing of the bell of the Basilica of Saint Francisco in Sucre and the broken bell still remains one of the most important relics of the city. We originally only planned to stay a day and a half here but because of the Bolivian referendum where everything shuts down including flights, we stayed for an extra day. The people in Bolivia must vote whether the current President Evo Morales can seek a fourth term as president. We stayed at the Hotel Parador Santa Maria la Real which is housed in a 18th century colonial building in the center of town.
The main courtyard at Hotel Parador Santa Maria la Real
The owner of the hotel purchased several adjacent colonial buildings to create this hotel.
Wonderful view of the city from the top floor of the hotel.
No cars allowed and hence the empty streets on the day of the referendum
Government house on the main square, Plaza 25 de Mayo, in Sucre
House of Liberty
Only street vendors and hotel restaurants are allowed to operate on this day of the referendum vote.
Probably the greatest day for the kids because they can ride their scooters and bikes freely around town with the streets empty of the normal traffic.
Old church that is now a hospital.
Voting on the referendum at a local school. On the wall is written the local teachings: “Don’t Steal; Don’t Lie; and Don’t be Lazy”
Locals of Sucre celebrating the “No” vote on the referendum which means President Morales will not be seeking a fourth term as president.
Everyone is out in the main square with cars circling the square tooting their horns in celebration.
La Recoleta boasts some of the best panoramic views over Sucre.
Plaza de Anzurez at La Recoleta
The convent of San Felipe Neri now functions as a school and entry is via the school entrance next door where you may need to ring a bell to gain access.
View of the convent from the rooftop
View of the neighboring La Merced Church from the rooftop of San Felipe Neri Convent
Good view of the city of Sucre from the bell tower of San Felipe de Neri.
We were told that Sucre was dinosaur territory in the past, so we made a short visit to the Dinosaur Park at Cal Orcko. The limestone wall at Cal Orcko preserved the footprints of about 8 different species of dinosaurs before they disappeared 64 million years ago.
The limestone wall of more than 25,000 square meters containing thousands of tracks of dinosaurs.
There are tours that take you right up to the limestone wall to see the footprints up close. Unfortunately, the tours were finished when we arrived at the park so we could only admire the tracks from the viewing platform at a distance.
Zebra campaign in Bolivia to encourage people to use the zebra crossings and follow the pedestrian lights.
From Sucre, we continue to Potosi about an hour and a half away. Potosi is one of the highest cities in the world at 4,090 meters. It is a silver mining town and was the major supplier of silver to Spain during the colonial era making it one of the wealthiest cities in Latin America. The Spaniards never found El Dorado which is a mythical kingdom filled with gold in Colombia, but they did find and exploited the Cerro Rico mountains of Potosi for its silver ore. Potosi locals like to claim that the mint mark of Potosi silver mines which is the letters PTSI superimposed on each other is the origin of the dollar sign. However, the city slowly declined as the silver mines dried up. Potosi was made a UNESCO site in 1987.
Old rope bridge connecting Sucre and Potosi provinces in Bolivia.
Casa Nacional de Moneda or the Spanish Royal Mint
The Spanish Royal Mint
Machines transported from Spain to make silver coins.
Underneath the machine in the above picture is the mechanism powered by 4 mules.
In Potosi, they have tigers instead of the zebras to encourage pedestrian safety.
Many tourists visit one of the mines still in operation here in Potosi. We decided we didn’t want to stomach the terrible working conditions and walk and crawl through seemingly dangerous passageways where ceilings could cave-in. The dust inside the mines are supposed to contain silicon from the walls and the ceilings are said to contain arsenic and cyanide. Scary stuff and sad too, especially to think that around 10,000 people still work in the mines and many of them die in their forties from silicosis. We stayed at the Hacienda Museo Cayara about 30 minutes outside of Potosi at a lower elevationn (3,550 meters). This estate was built in 1557 and is filled with curios from a bygone era and is one of the oldest habitable houses in Bolivia. And truth be told, coming from Titilaka in Peru, all the accommodations in Bolivia are a steep downgrade, and this one night at the Hacienda, I slept fully-clothed with a makeshift headscarf like a babushka lady….
Next post will be on the Uyuni Salt Flat, the highlight of this trip. Stayed tuned!
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