Art / Bolivia / Travel

Sucre: The Dazzling White City

From Potosí, we embarked on a short and very picturesque three hour journey to Sucre, Bolivia’s constitutional capital. I specify it as the constitutional capital, because in nearly every way the capital of Bolivia is La Paz, and many state that Bolivia has two capitals. The people of Sucre are passionate and proud of the fact that Sucre is in fact the capital of Bolivia. It’s also one of the most beautiful cities we have visited on our whole trip through South America. With its whitewashed colonial buildings, warm climate (which made a nice change!) and green plazas, Sucre was a lovely place to visit and we extended our stay for a few days because we just weren’t ready to leave.

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One of the first things we did was walk up hill away from the city centre to the mirador (viewpoint) in Recoleta for a wonderful view of the city. There’s a small cafe at the top with a lovely garden, where we had sandwiches and tea (how British!) and admired Sucre from above. Once we had extended our stay in the city, we returned up to the mirador to the same cafe for beers at sunset. Sucre is just as pretty from a distance as it is up close.

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Very close to the mirador, still up in the heights of the city, is the Museo de Arte Indigena, one of the best museums we’ve visited on our trip, which surprised us. It’s not a huge museum, nor is it particularly posh or modern, and it’s tucked away on a cobbled street through a small garden. The exhibition is mainly of traditional weavings, showing the progression of the art of fabric weaving throughout time and also throughout a woman’s life. It shows how a woman’s skills are developed from basic weaving (which is still incredibly impressive) at adolescence, to the complex weaving with patterns and animals tessellated so intricately it would take a great deal of mathematics to make it work! Amusingly, it tells the story of how in recent years men have noticed the success of the weavings of these women, impressed by the skill and the popularity of the garments, and how the trend has developed for men and boys to weave too (seemingly out of jealousy!). The displays throughout the museum are colourful, diverse and they each tell a different story. Also with free tea and coffee and really friendly staff, this was also one of the most welcoming museums too! Bolivia’s diverse ethnic cultures are also portrayed in the Museo de Etnografia y Folklore (or MUSEF), which is host to an impressive collection of traditional ceremonial masks, which are both interesting and slightly terrifying.

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As I mentioned, Sucre is a proud city. It is proud that this was where independence was proclaimed, and that it is Bolivia’s capital and it’s most beautiful city. The best place to learn about Bolivia’s quest for independence is the Casa de la Libertad, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1825. It’s a national memorial, a symbolic heart of Bolivia and an excellent place to visit to learn about the history of such an interesting country.

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Sucre also has plenty of places to eat and drink, with relaxed bars overlooking the main square, speciality ice cream parlours with many exotic flavours, affordable restaurants with both traditional Bolivian and international food, we were spoilt for choice. Sucre is not what you would expect Bolivia to look like, if asked to imagine before entering the country based on stereotypes and stories you hear. Before we arrived we were warned about how Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America, that it’s very much a developing country, and that we should lower our expectations and standards. Well, I think that’s a bit insulting to the whole of Bolivia, but especially to sophisticated, friendly and charming Sucre. Even after visiting just three places (Uyuni, Potosí and Sucre), we started to get an idea of just how diverse a country Bolivia is, as they are all so different.

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