One of the most impressive buildings in Cochabamba is the Convent of Santa Teresa, on the corner of Ecuador and Aguirre. This still-active convent of Carmelite nuns was established in 1726, and is now open to the public for tours. The nuns live separated from the rest of humanity, hidden away from prying eyes in sections of the temple which are strictly off-limits.
Cochabamba, with its wide streets and western-style restaurants, feels like a city awash in money. Although that’s not the case at all, at least one spot in town does exude wealth and genteel living: the palace of Simon I. Patiño, alternately known as the Tin Baron, or The Andean Rockefeller.
One of the most famous prisons in the world is the inmate-run San Pedro, smack in the center of La Paz. Yep, I said “inmate-run”. Authorities guard the gates, but within the walls of the block-sized facility, the prisoners run the operations.
The stunning Iglesia de San Francisco was built in the 18th century, and sits at the very top of the city’s main thoroughfare. After the Metropolitan Cathedral, it’s the most important religious building in La Paz, and because of its advantageous position near the tourist hub of Calle Sagárnaga, probably the most well-known.
Most people don’t realize that Sucre is technically the capital of Bolivia. La Paz has become the country’s largest and most important city, but according to the Bolivian constitution, Sucre is still the official capital. And the Casa de la Libertad is the country’s most historically significant building.
Don Francisco Argandoña and his wife Clotilde Urioste Velasco were among the most important members of late 19th Century Bolivian society. He had made a fortune in the mining industry, and owned a private bank. She was the daughter of a wealthy Spanish family, and dedicated her life to helping orphans. On a diplomatic tour Europe in 1898, they called upon Pope Leon XIII, who pronounced them the “Princes of the Glorieta”. They accepted the honor graciously; it hardly mattered that Bolivia didn’t have a monarchy.
It was our first day in Sucre, and the women in the tourist office seemed to be competing over who could be the most helpful. The younger lady took an early lead by piling brochures into my hands, offering advice on bus connections and informing us about upcoming festivals. However, her opponent, older and more deliberate, claimed victory after hearing Juergen say he was a photographer. “Ah! I bet you want a view over the city.” Yes, that is exactly what we want!