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Ancient cultures -Archeological - Protected natural areas -Cultural and Natural Heritage -Natural Park


BOLIVIA- ECOTOURISM TRADITIONS & CONSERVATIONISM


BOLIVIA: GENERAL INFORMATION

Twenty centuries of evolution have left their mark in modern and cosmopolitan cities such as Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the country's industrial capital. However, the passage of time has not eroded Bolivia's rich cultural past. For example, the colonial treasures which remain practically intact in the city of Sucre and the numerous chapels, churches and cathedrals throughout the country which pridefully display their Spanish heritage. The history of two cities, Oruro and Potosi, is identified with the search for silver and other minerals. This variety of regional characteristics and customs gave rise, over the centuries, to different lifestyles which are reflected in the carnivals, fiestas and music so typical of Bolivia. A kaleidoscope of visual - and also musical - pleasures awaits the tourist in Bolivia. In her interior one finds a treasure of breathtaking views and varied cultures that are a delight to the senses. The maximum blend, or a mix, of these various lifestyles can be found in La Paz: Bolivia's government center which is nestled in the foothills of majestic Illimani volcano.  Museums and restaurants exist side by side with handicraft shops in this city to create a singular cultural identity in this South American country that, definitely, has a lot to offer. the institution of the Inca pantheon as the official state religion. 

Lake Titicaca and the pre-Incaic ruins of Tiahuanaco have witnessed almost two millenniums of history and tradition in Bolivia. Since about 600 A.D., the highland indigenous kollas and the Tiahuanaco people lived around the lake. These cultures were fairly well-organized, and in contact with more advanced cultures, like that of the Nascas. And from their fusion came rituals, culture, and the coca leaf, which served to strengthen both the body and soul. The social structure of the Tiahuanaco disintegrated, possibly as a result of environmental disasters. About the 13th century, after a natural resistance on behalf of the first inhabitants, the Inca empire expanded to Bolivian territory. The Incas brought the Quechua language along with their constructions and customs. They were in power when Bolivia was conquered by Ñuflo de Chavez and Andres Manso, who, during their explorations, founded towns in El Chaco and Santa Cruz. After the struggles of the second conquest in these lands, Bolivia's colonial era began. It was closely tied to the development of mines in the Potosi Hills, which had great deposits of silver. Discovered in 1544, the deposits attracted conquistadors. Soon, the mines became an indispensable part of the commercial hub of the Spanish colony. Because of the mines, the Cuzco-Potosi road was colonized in all directions, resulting in the establishment of cities like La Paz, Sucre and Santa Cruz, which were founded before the start of the 1560s. A vibrant economic life ensued, and a cultural and artistic life came about, along with rebellions and conflicts. The life of the indigenous miners was hard and austere, and it was alleviated by the obrajes or missions, of the Jesuit priests, who created communities that were economically and culturally self-sufficient.

Bolivia was the first of the Spanish colonies in America that struggled to win independence from the crown. Twenty-five years were spent trying to achieve it. The independence movement began on May 25, 1809, and led by the patriot Pedro Domingo Murillo. The national hero's struggle, however, was silenced when he was captured and murdered. Independence was finally won in 1824 with the Battle of Ayacucho (Peru), commanded by Marshall Antonio Jose de Sucre. On August 6, 1825, the first formal declaration of independence was made. The first constitution was drafted in 1826, when liberator Simon Bolivar was elected as the first president of the republic. He transferred power to Marshall Sucre, and the city of Charcas, then the capital, was renamed in the new president's honor. Sucre's term was short-lived. Several periods of anarchy and military dictatorships followed. In 1836 Peru and Bolivia united, but the union fell about a decade later. Throughout this period there were four decades of constitutions, presidents and revolutions, until the War of the Pacific with Chile (1879-1883). Bolivia lost its access to the sea as a result. Since then, commercial access to the ocean depends on river, air or rail transportation. After the war, there was relative tranquility; education and agricultural systems were improved. But during the decade of the 1930s, the El Chaco War with Paraguay left a painful loss of lives, money, and goods. Despite the hard blow to the nation’s economy, the era created a new social consciousness that brought better conditions for workers. In the 1950s, universal voting rights, agrarian reform, and the nationalization of tin mines were obtained. Nevertheless, a new era of presidents interspersed by intermittent military juntas was underway during the 60s and 70s. In 1989, President Jaime Paz Zamora took office; he was elected by popular vote and ever since the country has been run in a democratic fashion with free elections. 

Bolivia - The Arts

Since pre-Columbian times, Bolivia had a great cultural and intellectual life. Architecture, ceramics, temples and other symbols scattered throughout the country give testimony to a culture with an advanced social organization. Not only were the kollas, the first inhabitants of the Andes Mountains and part of the highly organized Aimara family; so were their first conquerors-the Incas-who imposed their language, Quechua, as well as their art and culture. The Incas brought a new system of roads and aqueducts, hanging bridges, and surgical and medical practices. Other Incaic influences included new designs and geometric shapes on clay objects; new rituals and songs were also introduced. Centuries later, with the arrival of the Spaniards, the age of the horse and the wheel was begun. The era is also characterized by churches, and images, woodcarving and embroidery. During the colonial period, the intellectual center was the city of Sucre; it was also known then as Charcas or Chuquisaca. Important scientific and legal works were written there. One example is El Arte de los Metales, or The Art of Metalworking by the Spanish priest Alvaro Alonso Barba, written in 1640. Another work concerns silver mining at Potosi, written by Nicolas de Martinez Arzanz during the 16th century.

SCULPTURE - The world of sculpture was in full evidenced by its stone sculptures. It was enhanced, however, during the colonial period by the use of softer materials. That was how Tito Yupanqui, in 1576, sculpted Our Lady of Copacabana. Years later, during the 17th century, Diego Quispe Curo, bequeathed his Cristo Atado a una Columna, or Christ Tied to a Column. It was also during this era that gold and silversmithing reached their maximum splendor. One of the most exquisite examples is La Ultima Cena, or The Last Supper, which was created early in the 18th century and embossed in silver.

PAINTING - Religious subjects and majestic portraits were the earliest forms of oil painting in Bolivia. Today, there is more of a tendency toward an art of manners and in this arena the following painters are notable: Arturo Reque Meruvia, Victor Cuevas Pabon, David Crespo Gasteld, Antonio Sotomayor, the muralist Roberto Berdecio and Gil Coimbra. Abstract painters include Alfredo Da Silva and Marisa Luisa Pacheco, Alfredo Laplaca and Oscar Pantoja. Many Bolivian artists have been inspired by indigenous artwork, and among them are printmakers Genaro Ibañez, Ramon Katari and Max Portugal. Emiliano Lujan and Marina Nuñez del Prado are well known for their stone sculptural pieces. The Aimara people's culture eventually fused with the Incas' and later, with that of the Spaniards. The result: a rich culture, quite varied in the areas of sculpture, painting, literature and architecture. The culture maintains the best of the colonial period; at the beginning of this century it decided to recuperate and incorporate the art of its indigenous predecessors. The movement was led by Ricardo Jairries Freyre and is best illustrated in his work Leyes de la versificacion, or Laws of Versification. Since mid-century, others have distinguished themselves in the literary arts: Campero Echazo, Guido Villa-Gomez, Jestis Lara, Otero Reiche, Fernando Ortiz Sanz, Yolanda Bedregal, Oscar Gonzalez Alfaro and Enrique Viana. 

DANCE & MUSIC - Dance and music are the most popular cultural expressions found in Bolivia. Through them, the people give free rein to their joy, especially during carnival and the regional celebrations of both the kollas and the yungas. The mixture of indigenous and Spanish cultures gave birth to dances in honor of Our Lady of Copacabana, called El Gran Sicuri, which uses drums and flutes, the puli-puli dance, characterized by its flowery crest and feathers, and the participation of women dressed in the traditional garments of the highlands. In the Oruro carnival, the diabladas, or devil-dancers, are known for their masks and costumes. The dancers are generally accompanied by guitar, harp, flute, or a small guitar called a charango. Because of their alternating displays of coquetry and dignity, the cueca and the huayño are popular with couples. Bolivian celebrations bring together a whole gamut of folklore and national traditions. For evening entertainment, look for peñas and night club shows in Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and La Paz.  There are plenty of outdoor cafes, places where one can see folkloric dances, and hear folkloric music. Those who love disco dancing have a choice of establishments; there are discotheques that play rock, salsa, and/or a combination. Visitors who want entertainment that is a little more sedate can check local newspapers for listings. Theater and concerts are presented throughout Bolivia's major cities.

The Food

Generally, in order to enjoy Bolivian cuisine, it is wise to spend the first two days eating lightly and avoiding alcoholic beverages, at least in La Paz. Once the body has become acclimated to the altitude, one can have a great variety of dishes, especially those featuring meats and poultry. If what you are looking for is local dishes, then empanadas salteñas (a type of meat pie), the plato paceño and a big variety of tuberous vegetables and sauces are just a sampling of true Bolivian cuisine. In this South American country, every part of the cow is consumed. Tongue, kidney, stomach, all cuts of meat are available, and they allow the creation of both local and international fare. And if you prefer international foods, in La Paz and Santa Cruz streets there are plenty of Italian, German, French, Brazilian, and Argentine restaurants. Those with exotic palates should try quinua, a plant with triangular leaves and abundant seeds. This authentic Andean food has a high nutritional value, and has awakened scientific curiosity. Today, the quinua is included as part of a balanced diet. Other unusual foods to sample include dehydrated potatoes, or habas and cebada. Occasionally, one might find llama, alpaca and vicuña and lamb dishes listed. In the lake and river regions, fish dishes are popular. One of the sauces accompanying vegetables is the jallpahuaica, made with tomatoes, fresh peppers, and herbs. If you are visiting the country during the holidays, ask for a picana, a traditional Christmas dish made with beef or veal, cooked in wine and herbs and served with steamed potatoes. During carnival time, puchero is eaten, a soup with various kinds of meats, tuberous vegetables, and rice Another tasty favorite is silpancho cochabambino, or meat with eggs and hot sauce. A traditional creole menu includes assorted hot sauces made of peppered tongue; chanca, which is chicken with yellow peppers and an onion sauce, served with potatoes; saise or meat with onion and tomato sauce, peas, and oregano; tuntas with cheese and chuiios scrambled with cheese. Among the many delights awaiting tourists to Bolivia is trout fresh from Lake Titicaca. It is popular for its exquisite flavor and the ways it is prepared locally. Furthermore, its light meat makes trout an excellent choice during the time the body is adjusting to the altitude, which undoubtedly affects appetite. Be sure to try the local beverages, coca mate and chicha (maize liquor), which are usually consumed during indigenous festivals and carnival times. Bolivia is also known for its fantastic frog legs from Lake Titicaca; these are even exported to France. Delicious local flavor is also found in the parrilladas -where various meats are cooked on a grill. Lovers of local cuisine can dine in a nostalgic environment where meals are accompanied by Andean music and served on clay dinnerware. If in doubt about what to select, there is always a variety of soups or corn and potato dishes prepared in several ways and accompanied by hot sauces. In Bolivia, hot peppers are in the majority of the dishes

 


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