Easter morning - Cathedral
I had a great Easter week exploring Cochabamba
very leisurely. I was staying at Anita´s mom´s house and I could come and go when I wanted. Their house is central and a lot of the sites were within walking distance, or at the very least, a short taxi ride. This is Latin America where every other car is a taxi or some form of public transportation so your normal wait on a corner is less than 30 seconds. A far far cry from the situation in Cleveland, Ohio where you have to call ahead and then pray that the taxi comes within the next hour. Anyway, there are not so many things to see in Cochabamba, but enough to have kept me occupied for a week.
Santa Teresa Convent & Church
I saw some of the churches, the highlight being the convent complex of Santa Teresa. It is a Carmelite convent, like the one I saw in Arequipa, Peru, but it was not as sumptuous nor large as its Peruvian cousin. I arrived early morning and met my guide, a pretty and knowledgable local girl named Andrea. She is finishing her studies in art restoration and is a volunteer to take tours around the convent. She showed me the cloisters, the chapter hall, a typical cell and then we entered into the art gallery where a few paintings are displayed. By this time we had begun talking a lot and she was aware of my knowledge of iconography and I even filled in some of her knowledge gaps. By the time we came to the church proper she asked me how I knew so much.
Botanical Gardens - Statue
I told her that I have my masters in renaissance art history and that I was brought up traditional Catholic, so that explains how I know so much about the saints and Church history. The church itself was fascinating because the Italian architect attempted an interlocking curving plan but when the walls were built he realized it was impossible to put a dome on the extravagent design. So a smaller church was hastily built within the wide curvilinear walls and the architect left in shame. We walked to the top of the original walls and emerged to a brilliant cloudless day with a fantastic 360 degree view of Cochabamba. I was impressed by the architect´s design and I wondered if he had studied under Borromini in Rome. The original plan reminded me very much of Borromini´s San Carlo alle Quatro Fontane in Rome.
Archeological Museum - Ten Commandments
But Borromini pulled off his daring plans whereas this poor architect didn´t manage it. Andrea and I talked for a long time, sitting on the steps and enjoying the perfect day. She told me about the difficulty in doing studies in Bolivia and the even greater difficulty of finding a decent job as there is so little money for restoration. Most of what funds are available come from foreign grants but there is just a trickle compared to what is necessary to prop up and restore the aging colonial artistic patrimony. She lamented that even the tours of Santa Teresa would soon stop because there is not enough money to continue them and then nuns cannot manage it. Aside from that, the convent is decaying so rapidly that it will soon become too risky to let visitors in.
This was a very sobering thought. It seems as if the arts are always the last to get funded and preserved. We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet again to talk about our common interest in art and architecture. It was nice for me to have such a long conversation about those things. My degree and studies seem so long ago. I have forgotten a lot over time. Unfortunately I wasn´t able to take pictures.
Cochabamba has a small but lovely botalnical gardens and I walked around there one pleasant afternoon. It was interesting to compare the Spanish names of the plants and flowers I knew to the English words. I found out that ¨Black Eyed Susan¨doesn´t have a Spanish translation. A lot of our names are very colorful! I visited the archeological museum which was very small and not that interesting.
Maybe I was just tired that afternoon and didn´t have the patience to read through the long descriptions in Spanish of the ancient peoples in Bolivia. I had spent many hours doing that in Peru and from the likes of the artifacts there wasn´t much difference. I´m sure I´ll learn more as I go along. One thing that did interest me was a tableau spelling out the Ten Commandments in pictoragrams. I´m not sure where it came from or who used it. I´m sure it was for the Aymara or Quechua language speakers who couldn´t understand the missionaries. A picture paints a thousand words!
The Plaza Colon and Plaza 14 de Septiembre were always good places to stop and recharge or just observe everything going on around. Particularly in the later plaza, the plaza where the cathedral is located and considered the main plaza, there was always something going on every day.
Mural, Part 1
Near the end of my stay I was surprised one night to come upon a throng of students with a number of them roping crosses to the trees and then getting up on them and being crucified (tied with rope). They were protesting something about the university. The mood was ominous and the crowd large enough that I didn´t stick around too long to read everything, nor to take pictures. In fact, the whole mood that week in the country was not good. There were protests going on in the east near Santa Cruz, and there was a confrontation between miners and campesinos near Potosi in which some miners were killed. A friend of Anita´s family warned me not to take a bus back to La Paz
but as I learned later she is prone to exaggeration and hysteria.