While studying in Bolivia, you have a rare opportunity to get to know the Patrimonio Cultural de Bolivia (the Bolivian Cultural Heritage). Deemed of “outstanding universal value” by UNESCO, these national treasures come in architectural, natural, interpersonal, and intangible forms, and are found throughout Bolivia. Those who study abroad in Bolivia will be surrounded by sites, traditions, and events considered valuable enough to humankind that the UNESCO finds it necessary to pool resources for their protection.
The Bolivian city of Potosi was the world’s largest industrial complex in the 16th century. The Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain) in Potosi produced approximately two billion ounces of silver during the Spanish colonial era. The wealthy supply of silver covered the streets of Potosi, augmented the European Renaissance, and contributed to the funding for the Spanish fleet that assailed Elizabethan England, the “Invincible Armada.”
This site consists of industrial monuments in the Cerro Rico and its labyrinthine system of aqueducts and man-made lakes, the Church of San Lorenzo, the colonial town where the Casa de la Moneda is found, the barrios mitayos (where the workers once lived), and a handful of patrician houses. The Casa de la Moneda (House of the Mint) is now a numismatic museum with more than 100 colonial photos and numerous ethnographic and archaeological collections. The church of San Lorenzo, built in 1548, offers a great showcase of local architecture in Baroque style.
Jesuit Missions Of Chiquitos
Located around Bolivia are six reducciones, or settlement towns originally built for the Christianized natives. These settlements were influenced by the “ideal cities” envisioned by 16th-century philosophers. Founded by the Jesuits, the reducciones offer an interesting fusion of Catholic and local architecture and traditions. While a good number of the Jesuit missions ceased to exist after they were abandoned in the 18th century, six reducciones of the Chiquitos persisted: the Concepción, San Francisco Javier, San Miguel, Santa Ana, San José, and San Rafael.
The historic Bolivian city of Sucre is rightfully well preserved and now offers an engaging combination of European architecture and local traditional design. Back in the colonial times, Sucre was a preferred place of abode for Spanish royalty and privileged families, mainly due to its temperate climate. Most of the colonial buildings erected in the area were whitewashed, giving it the nickname la ciudad blanca (“the white city”). Sucre is well known for its 16th-century religious structures, particularly the Santo Domingo, San Francisco, and San Lázaro.
El Fuerte De Samaipata
This huge natural sandstone hill greets visitors with a majestic rock art covered with religious symbolisms that date back to the pre-Inca. El Fuerte de Samaipata is artfully sculpted with figures of snakes, birds, cats, and other symbols with religious significance. Just south of the hill is the former capital of the Inca graced with a central plaza, residential houses, agricultural terraces, and public buildings. The site is called El Fuerte, or the Fortress, as it was deemed a strategic location by the Spanish and the Inca.
The site features ruins of what used to be the capital of a powerful pre-Inca civilization in the Andes region (500-900 AD). The monumental remains of the Tiwanaku culture now include the Akapana (a stepped pyramid), the Kalasasaya (an open temple), and the semi-underground temple.
Noel Kempff Mercado National Park
This biologically diverse national park in the Amazon Basin has an altitude that ranges from 200-1000 m., and boasts of wetlands, evergreen rainforests, and the Cerrado savannah. The Noel Kempff Mercado National Park has an evolutionary history that dates as far back as the Precambrian period (a billion years ago). About 4,000 species of flora, an estimated 600 bird species, and a number of endangered vertebrate species find a natural habitat in the park.
The Carnaval De Oruro
If you are spending the spring semester abroad in Bolivia, you can catch this UNESCO World Heritage Event. The Carnaval de Ororu is a monumental celebration in Bolivia. Held every Feb. 2 in its folklore capitol, Oruro, the festival blends the country’s indigenous culture with Christianity. People from all over the world visit Bolivia to witness the Grand Parade, with its 30,000 dancers and 10,000 musicians divided into groups called the Morenadas, Caporales, and Diabladas.
The Morenadas commemorate the plight of the enslaved Africans who worked in the Bolivian mines and lowland plantations. The Caporales emulate the foremen or corporals and their brutal supervision of the Indian and African slaves during the colonial period. The Diabladas masquerade offers a depiction of the centuries-old ritual that aimed to appease the god of the underworld, Supay.
Andean Kallawaya Culture
The Kallawaya ethnic group finds its roots in the pre-Inca period. Deriving its medical techniques from old belief systems of the indigenous peoples of the Andean era, the people of the Kallawaya center their economic activity on ancestral healing practices. Their healing methods are based on a deep understanding of animal, botanical, and mineral pharmacopoeia and knowledge of rituals connected to their religious beliefs. Kallawaya priest doctors are well received not only in Bolivia but in several other South American countries as well.