Sucre Stories and Tips

Plaza 25 de Mayo

Prefectura Photo, Sucre, Bolivia

The most distinctive feature of Spaniard colonial towns is the central plaza, which serves them as an administrative and cultural centre. Standing at the plaza’s centre, a glance is enough to identify the importance of the town and if there is something special in it. Even without knowing Bolivian history, it is easy to see that Sucre’s plaza is unique, that something special happened here. Despite the town’s tiny size, its main plaza is huge. The cathedral by its side is monumental. The administrative centres – belonging to the town and the province – have national proportions. Moreover, by the end of this quick glance, the eyes stop at a humbler building that does not fit into the list of regular structures in such a plaza.

The odd structure is the Casa de la Libertad, the Liberty House, where the Bolivian independence was declared almost two centuries ago. The house was built in 1621 as part of a Jesuitical Monastery and in 1624 was dedicated to the Universidad Mayor, Real y Pontificia de San Francisco Xavier de Chuquisaca. There, the assembly that declared the independence met. Nowadays it is a museum.

To understand the incongruence, it is essential to realize that Sucre is a bit off-side in the Bolivian map. The main routes connecting La Paz – the most important city in Bolivia and where the government is – with Argentina do not cross Sucre, thus the official capital of Bolivia is a semi-forgotten town in the hills. A century ago the Bolivian government moved to La Paz and left Sucre to live alone with its memories.

The most distinctive building by the plaza is the cathedral, the Catedral Metropolitana, which was founded in 1559. The beautiful structure includes a museum with one of the best collections of sacred art in Bolivia.

Next to it is the Prefectura, the administrative centre of the "Departamento," which is the Bolivian name for their provinces. The structure includes interesting casts representing the different Bolivian provinces and in that reinforces the feeling of being at a location of national importance. Continuing the walk around the plaza, the Casa de la Libertad is reached and a bit afterwards the municipality building. The last is worth visiting for a beautiful vitrage in its interior depicting an indigenous woman posing as Justice.

The next side of the plaza includes commercial structures, and the last one hosts the ASE – Asociacion Sucrense de Ecologia – where embalmed animals from the different Bolivian habitats are showed, from condors lacking a few feathers to strange mammals. Next to it is the Museo Universitario Dr Alfredo Gutierrez Valenzuela.

At the plaza’s centre there is a statue honouring the Mariscal de Ayacuchoo and celebrating the centenary of the 25th of May 1809 insurrection, which preceded (and prepared) the declaration of Bolivian independence by sixteen years.

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