Jessiut Missions – Bolivia

Posted: July 13, 2011 in Bolivia

San Jose de Chiqutios

The Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos are in the Santa Cruz district of easter Bolivia. Six of the missions have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The missions are distinguished by the fusion of European and American Indian cultural influences. The missions were founded as reductions or reducciones de indios by Jesuits in the 17th and 18th centuries to convert the Indians to Christianity. Jesuits explored and founded eleven settlements over 70 years in the Chiquitos region of Spanish America. They built churches in a unique and distinct style that combined elements of Indian and European architecture. The indigenous inhabitants of the missions were taught European music as a means of conversion. The missions were self-sufficient, with thriving economies, and virtually autonomous from the Spanish crown.

Leaving Santa Cruz in a mini bus for San Jose de Chiquitos I was sharing with 8 other passengers, which is the usual starting point for the Jesuit Mission circuit working around it anti-clockwise. There are seven missions that make up the circuit, San Jose de Chiquitos, San Rafael, San Ana, San Miguel, San Ignacio, Conception, San Javier. I had not yet decided on whether I would do them all, but would arrive in San Jose and decide later.

The fare was 70 Boliviano or just under 6 GBP in REAL money! The mini bus pulled out of the informal bus depot, which I can only describe as a chaotic, dirty back street; filled with old fat Bolivian woman carrying HUGE red/blue and white check bags filled to bursting point with clothes, blankets, vegetables, oil, rice and such like clambering into old 1990´s battered white Nissan vans (that would not pass an MOT test in the UK.) Although each person is officially allowed one bag each, which I stuck to, most ignored it and one woman bought 4 bags the size of large suit cases. Needless to say there was limited space for fee paying passengers and I had a large box accompany me, on my lap as it happens for the 5 hour trip.

The first 3 hours on the main road was really smooth and quite relaxing, the second 2 hours crosses what can only be described as the bad lands! In fact this section of road will soon join the motorway in the east with its counterpart in the west, this is essence will link Santa Cruz with the Brazilian border. As of yet the road has been marked out, cut through, bridged and leveled out but has not been surfaced. The chicken lane that is currently used along this stretch is hellish, as driving conditions are either sandy, dusty and hot or muddy, pot holed and treacherous when raining.

I arrived safe and found myself a hotel which charges 30 Boliviano a night (3 GBP) and had chicken, rice and chips dinner 10 Boliviano, time for bed.

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