Driving to Sucre was much easier than from Uyuni to Potosi. We rode with our new friend Kirsten, and spent two hours watching stunning scenery from a small car, traveling mostly downhill. Slate mountains shimmered in the sun.
Sucre is truly charming. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Sucre has a very large colonial center area, with many fine buildings. It’s very walkable. We enjoyed relaxing at a great colonial hotel, and eating at some of the local restaurants. I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t very adventurous with food in Sucre, and insisted on eating at a Dutch tourist restaurant several times. I was hooked on their anti-bacterial salad wash; the recent bout of food poisoning being my excuse. We also enjoyed the chocolate made in Sucre; one of the local specialties.
It was interesting to note the relative wealth of the city, compared to the other parts of Bolivia we’ve visited. Even in old times, many wealthy citizens preferred to live in the (relatively) comfortable lower altitude of Sucre, while their businesses were in Potosi. In addition to colonial estates, we noticed many large new homes. But, unfortunately, there are also children busking in the streets.
Sucre and La Paz are dually the capitals of Bolivia. We visited several museums housed in beautiful old official buildings. In one, the guide told us that the native women’s style of puffy, layered, pleated skirts was derived from the dress of colonial Spanish women. If true, this is fascinating. At the same museum, we saw paintings in tribute to Juana Azurduy, a female hero of the revolution.
And we learned about the main revolutionary heroes of Bolivia. There was a wealth of Spanish religious art at these institutions as well.
Sucre has a beautiful colonial cathedral. There is a shrine to the virgin bedecked in precious gems and gold, said to be worth enough to pay off Bolivia’s national debt.
At a university’s museum, we saw some contemporary art, including this lament about miner’s health.
Our favorite museum was El Museo de Art Indigena ASUR, a textile museum devoted to local Native American works, and to preserving their textile traditions. Our of the traditional methods was Jalq’a, red and black weavings with wonderful and strange patterns of imaginary animals, khurus. They represents a kind of dream world where men do not dominate. At the museum, weavers demonstrated their techniques.
We bought a beautiful Jalq’a, created by a local artist. It is more detailed than this one.
Something strange we’ve noticed in Bolivia is the presence of nudie posters in unexpected places. Bolivia’s Catholic conservatism apparently doesn’t preclude there from being a topless beer poster in a copy shop where school kids are xeroxing English homework. Or a travel agency, restaurant, or whatever. And they’re almost all blonde women, in a nation of predominantly Native American and Mestizo (mixed race) people.
Another thing we noticed was the after school, mostly male gaming crowd at the internet cafe. This is apparently a worldwide phenomenon, as we’ve seen them in every country except maybe Singapore.
I’d never have known it without visiting Bolivia, but Sucre has the world’s largest paleontological site. We felt dwarfed standing next to what looks like (and is) a mountain cut in half. A mining company, blasting away at a mountain for ingredients for cement, discovered them. Hence the sliced mountain. Digging through layers and layers of sediment, they came upon a layer with large tracks. The cut forms a giant wall, maybe eight stories high, and you can see many kinds of dino tracks crossing it. You can even see where a T-rex is running, or where two dinosaurs had a skirmish.
The wall and tracks are vertical because of the way the earth buckled from seismic activity. Unfortunately, the mining company is still dynamiting the site everyday, and causing lots of damage. Administrators are waiting for World Heritage status, so they can preserve the footprints. We may be some of the last people to actually touch the tracks.
Afterward, we climbed to a restaurant high on the hillside, and had lunch with some new friends. And this guy came along to show us some local song and dance. His costume impressed us more.
We visited Sucre’s market on our last day. It reminded us some of Asian markets. And we patronized this fine establishment.