This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sucre, Bolivia - A Day In The Life

Welcome to Sucre

Leaving the old mining town of Potosi, we make the decision to go to another colonial town, Sucre. The town is known on the travelers´circuit for its cheap Spanish schools, but neither of us plan on taking language classes. We also do not plan on staying that long in Sucre and we end up being here one month without leaving once -- making it the longest that we have stayed anywhere since May 2010. Sucre is just kind of like that.
Sucre is now the third "White City" that we have been to in South America
So here it is, a town that really does not have an overwhelming amount to offer foreign visitors in regards to culture or a stunning array of bars and restaurants, yet quite a few travelers end up staying here for a while. People will come to study Spanish for a week and stay several more. Others volunteer for a month one year and come back for their entire summer vacation the next. Sucre is just a comfortable place to be, that's pretty much it. Long term travelers, like us, have been constantly moving all over the South American continent and this tranquilo Bolivian city ends up being a good place to unpack bags and take a break for a while from the rigors of the road. The nearest place that I can compare it to is Antigua, Guatemala, but with a smaller gringo scene.
A Spanish study session with flashcards
Founded in 1538, Sucre´s city center is steeped in history. Spanish royalty and wealthy families living off of the silver mines of Potosi lived here because they preferred Sucre´s temperate climate. The first "shout of freedom" against the Spanish in the entire western hemisphere took place in Sucre in 1809. In modern day Sucre well-maintained, stark white historic buildings, universities and colonial era churches line the streets. In 1991 it became a UNESCO world heritage site.

A university entrance

An Eiffel Tower? Yes, the famous French architect really did design this tower
A church entrance

This year we have been to so many colonial towns, and I always find something pleasant about strolling through the cobblestone streets lined with modern day shops while peeking into inner courtyards that are oozing with history. The one thing that can always get to me though are the narrow pedestrian-filled sidewalks and the congested streets designed for mules, not buses or cars. The Spanish city planners definitely did not foresee dramatic growth to their colonized towns and Sucre is no exception. The sidewalks here can get clogged especially at lunch time when school gets out, and the streets become crowded with cars and secondhand Japanese buses. Click the link to see my first Sucre blog.
An inner courtyard

Sucre is also proudly home to El Parque Cretacico (The Dinosaur Park). Around the city are homages to these now extinct reptiles. This awesome phone booth stands outside the airport.

Alasitas - A Miniature Festival

While in Sucre we happen to catch La Fiesta de las Alasitas -  the abundance festival of the Aymara people. The largest festival takes place in La Paz in January and smaller ones are held in other cities at different times of the year. At this festival Bolivians buy miniature items of which they aspire to own and offer them to Ekeko, the God of Abundance. The items are blessed by a Yatiri (usually from whom you bought the small items) over incense and then brought to the church by the patrons to give their own blessing. This shows the interesting blend between indigenous and Spanish cultures.
The busy church entrance during Alasitas
Ekeko (meaning 'dwarf' in Aymara) is a household idol that represents good luck and plenitude. He is fat, jovial and loaded down with goods. You have to give miniature presents to Ekeko if you want to stay in his good favor. Building a house this year so buy him small construction items; graduating soon buy him a mini-diploma. He also likes miniature money, food staples and loves cigarettes.

Our Ekeko
Figuring that a little luck (and idol worship?) never hurt anybody, Mika and I decide to get our own Ekeko and load him up with goodies. The first thing we do is get him a mini stack of cash and pot of gold -- our true desires. It is then recommend by the ladies that we get our Ekeko some miniature food staples like corn or flour, but we get him some things more near and dear to our stomachs: an avocado, a shrimp and a tiny can of tuna which for us represents yummy maguro. Oh yeah, we also get him a mini briefcase chock full of US dollars, credit cards, airplane tickets and a passport. Every year we need to buy Ekeko a new miniature gift and attach it to him.

A  few months back I wrote about the joys of minimizing my possessions and meanwhile I just bought the Aymara ceramic God of Abundance that I will need to cart around the continent until we reach the USA again sometime this autumn..

 Market Order

Sucre's Central Market
 The central market is a couple blocks from the main plaza and one block from my hotel which means that I pass by it several times every day. I am not sure why, but I like the place, even with the price gauging of foreigners by the tough vegetable sellers (sometimes the fancy supermarket is cheaper), the lack of vegetarian options for lunch and dinner, the smelly meat section and the occasional eruption of a street dog fight. Maybe I like the order of everything divided into neat, signed sections in a building the size of an entire square block. The bread section has all bread sellers; the cake ladies are in a nice cake lady isle; eggs and cheese sellers are huddled together; lunch stalls inhabit one area and dinner peddlers another.  I know what it is...this place is tapping into my inner Container Store.

Cake Sellers

Fruit Juice Stands
Eggs and Cheese


Clothing section open only in the evening

There is even a bananas/plantains section

A Day In The Life

So one might be thinking...if you are in the town for a month and not taking Spanish classes what could you possibly be doing all day in Sucre? I would say that most people here study Spanish, but some study things like Quechua or folkloric dancing. Spanish schools will also help people find volunteer opportunities in places such as, orphanages, pre-schools or hospitals. Some also figure out how to do their own thing. We meet one Australian who paints murals around town. Meanwhile, I end up being very busy all month as a volunteer photographer for an organization helping working children (which I will write about in the next blog post). Mika focuses her energy on the kitchen making Indian curries, gyoza -Japanese dumplings, and hand-made pizzas.
Pizza de la casa 
We find a nice, clean, reasonably priced, European-owned hostel with a kitchen, reliable hot water and an impressive dvd collection. Most tourists quickly come and go, but there are a few who stick around with us for a while. I have  reached the point where I will only exchange names with someone after seeing them for three consecutive days. There is something comforting about seeing the same faces every day for a few weeks in a row. Sucre does have a kind of attractive small town charm. After one week here, I cannot leave the hostel without running into someone I know on the street.
Our "home" for a month

This hidden gem (crepe with three balls of ice cream inside) is found at a cafe on the main plaza for just 12 Bolivianos (US $1.75)
I am enjoying volunteering and could probably stay in Sucre longer. Mika, however, is getting a bit bored (and frustrated by the lack of good coffee) and we are both gaining weight from all of the home cooking. We make the plan to soon leave to begin traveling again, but this is easier said than done. Our departure date always seems to get pushed back a bit and it only becomes a sure thing when we finally purchase bus tickets to La Paz.

Volunteer For A Day

An example of what can be done in Sucre: One day I go with a friend who has been volunteering at a daycare center in a poor neighborhood outside of town. The daycare center provides education and meals to pre-school children at minimal cost. Volunteers help the undermanned staff with the daily activities of the center and keeping the rambunctious kids entertained. I spend one fun day at a daycare center playing with, dancing with and taking photos of these ridiculously photogenic children.

Lunch - some of the kids older siblings also eat here after school



  1. Fantastic post! (As usual)
    Have you taken the road from La Paz to Coroico yet?

  2. Thanks for again Margaret for the nice comment.

    Is that the death road? No, not yet. Not really sure if that is my thing, but my wife is thinking about doing it when we return to La Paz after our trip to the jungle.