The White City

Sucre, Bolivia’s constitutional capital, is an old-world city painted completely in white. It’s a far cry from La Paz’s hilly streets and road side stalls, and stands on its own as much for its polarity as it does its attractiveness.

As observed in the rural areas of Bolivia, Sucre’s locals have an obvious affliction for hotted up sports cars. This city could be a genuine contender for one of the Fast and Furious films of the future, given the assortment of Japanese cars which have been tricked out with sub woofers, decals, body kits, flashy rims, and under body neon lights. At night in the main square of Sucre, a white van was parked with its slider door open, and proceeded to blast hardcore techno for most of the evening. People enjoyed simply hanging out, checking out one of the local restaurants serving up traditional Bolivian food, and forming part of the everyday scenery in the white city. Sucre also has incredible chocolate stores, where they mix chocolate with quinoa, coconut, nuts, and other combinations, such as random grains we had never heard of before.

President Morales visited one of the days we were there to celebrate their independence from Spain. The festivities in the street included marching bands, school children dressed up in colourful clothes playing the drums, trombones and other instruments, and what felt like a never ending stream of locals following them around. It was a huge deal. We saw six ambulances hidden beneath a white tarp on the street, and thought “maybe there’s going to be a riot?” But as it turned out, President Morales gives away new ambulances each year on the same day, amongst other gifts, as parades mob the streets to celebrate the “first cry for freedom.” Our assumptions about a potential riot weren’t too far off the mark though, as we later discovered in 2008 during this exact celebration in Sucre, hostages were taken, beaten, and humiliated publicly by local protestors. The victims were all indigenous supporters — for those who don’t know, President Morales is pro-indigenous, which has rubbed the upper class up the wrong way for some time now.

To celebrate the “first cry for freedom,” there was a big art exhibition in the main square dedicated to some of history’s most important, if not beloved, freedom fighters. Paintings included Martin Luther King, Tupac Amaru, Anne Frank, Gandhi, and if to purposely stand out and make a point, a bright red central painting of Che Guevara. As previously noted, the perception of Guevara in Latin America is divisive as it is elsewhere in the world, but overall there are many paintings, murals, books, and references to Che Guevara as a freedom fighter who overthrew the corrupt and bloody US-backed Batista government. The art gallery also contained paintings of some of Bolivia’s most important people; politicians, soldiers, and an amazing female warrior named Juana Azurduy Bermudez who fought the Spanish. Her white-handled sword was on display and looked incredible. As she led an army of 6,000 men, the Spanish decapitated her husband and killed her kids as revenge for her Bolivian heroics, but she came back in spades and led a field of fighters to success. Reading about all she had accomplished, she sounded like the ultimate heroine and a great reference point for women in general.

For those visiting Sucre make sure to check out Joy Ride cafe, which shows movies every night in their upstairs bar area. We watched Scarface one evening, and The Devil’s Miner the next. They have a full service bar and restaurant, as well as lounges to relax on while watching some classics.

After we left the clean white city, we made our way to La Paz, which would be our final stop before adventure-laden Peru.

 

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