Fare Thee Well, Sucre

It has been three weeks and a day since we arrived in Sucre, after two months on the road in Argentina and Chile. Today, our final day in Sucre, we offer an official Andes Not The Mint Post Of Appreciation to all the Sucrenos out there. We have had a truly special time here and would like to share some of our experiences about this wonderful city and the people who inhabit it.

The best way to describe Sucre is to place it in the context of Bolivia as a whole, similar to how one might compare one region of America—not to foreign nations, but rather, another part of the States. Sucre is a genteel, laid back city in which both the architecture and people exude and inhabit a great deal of tradition and history. The Sucrenos are known for their generally reserved but warm disposition, and the city as a whole retains a stately feel as compared to the more frenetic pace of larger cities such as La Paz or Santa Cruz.  Sucre is a hill town with a historic center comprised of narrow, undulating cobblestone streets. As you walk through town, every turn of a corner offers a different view of the city and the mountains beyond.

Truth be told, we’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks in a rather sedentary fashion and haven’t seen many of the historical sites and museums here.  Each morning we get up early, prepare some excellent coffee from the Caranavi region and walk down from the Recoleta district to the Sucre School of Spanish on Calle Calvo. The last two weeks, Lex and I have submitted ourselves to four hours a day of intensive, one-on-one Spanish grammer bootcamp. It has been a little intense, but we have both learned a lot. I have been immersed in various preterite and future tenses and although my brain hurts a little from two weeks of bootcamp, I will say that it has been very interesting to learn how different languages deal with transitions in time.

It has also been very interesting to be immersed in a culture with a far more fluid relationship between the past and the present. Without sounding like some pretentious expat d-bag, it seems to me that most of our American traditions are either created or recast before us in a corporate, media-driven fashion. In a few weeks, it will be Memorial Day, known to most people as a chance to spend money on Memorial Day sales, and to pack into cars to validate the purchase of a timeshare we spend the other 50 weeks of the year chatting about by the water cooler. Or, perhaps we’ll take in a movie because we all know what a big box office weekend Memorial Day is?

By contrast, holidays in Bolivia are an interesting mix of ancient regional traditions largely free of commercialism. Every town in Bolivia has one day a year during which everybody young and old comes out to share in the song, dance, and art of their native region. We won’t be here in Sucre for the town’s grand fiesta, but we did have the pleasure of witnessing the Easter holiday Sucreno style.

During the pre-Hispanic and even pre-Inca times, the valley people in a given region would ascend a nearby mountain to perform religious ceremonies. Perhaps not so charming is the fact that these ceremonies usually consisted of a human sacrifice, but hey–who’s judging? To this day, the campesinos in the rural parts will chalk up some form of calamity as an offering to Pachamama and consider their misfortune a possible sign of a good harvest to come.

Here in Sucre, the holy mountain of years past and present happens to be Churuquella hill, located directly behind our guest house. Every year, throughout the night leading up to Good Friday, the people of Sucre walk up the very same mountain their ancestors used to ascend. Nowadays, there is a statue of Senor J.C. up top the hill in front of which people recite various prayers in Spanish or Quechua as part of a ritual that involves the chewing or smoking of coca leaves. Lex and I walked up the hill; myself, recasting the whole tradition in a Passover light. Coca leaves or matzah; same difference, right?

Speaking of the Hebrew brothers, earlier today we visited the historical cemetery in Sucre. The cemetery consists of an assortment of mausoleums and small glass encasements commerating citizens of note, all set up on a tranquil hillside location. Situated in the center of the cemetary is a small section for Jewish people of German origin who took refuge in Sucre during the Nazi years.

Although we haven’t been to the majority of the museums and tourist attractions in Sucre, the rythyms of a temporary home have brought us to various corners of the city in search of, well . . . to be honest, in seach of food. It has been a lot of fun buying vegetables in the markets here, and as of press time, there is a bag of veggies (including a heretofore unencountered lemon-basil varietal) waiting for us in our panoramic kitchen. We’re going to cook dinner one last time, looking out the window towards the fair city of Sucre.  Although we leave here tomorrow, I am sure we’ll take a little bit of Sucre with us forever down the road.

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About andesnotthemint

Alexis, Mark, 2 seasons, 1 continent, a very long mountain range.
This entry was posted in Bolivia, Mark, preachy-teachy, Sucre, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Fare Thee Well, Sucre

  1. mom wyman says:

    I think from your descriptions – Sucre has been an experience
    you will treasure for a very long time.
    Congratulations on your excellente boot camp —
    love – mom w.

  2. Lea says:

    It sounds like you’re having an amazing trip- can’t wait to read about where you go next!

  3. Lea says:

    Subscribing to e-mail updates- looks like I need to comment again to do that. 🙂

  4. Pingback: ANTM Travel Awards: Geography | Andes Not The Mint dot com

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