Who knew Bolivia’s capital isn’t La Paz?
Thanks Trivial Pursuit for planting that seed of misinformation during my teens.
La Paz is the administrative – or – de facto capital, while the political capital is Sucre. So now that we’ve got that straight, it’s time to acquaint yourself with this gorgeous colonial city.
Sucre isn’t exactly on the beaten track, so I had very few notions of what it would be like. Actually, I had never even heard of Sucre before planting two feet on Bolivian soil. Located in a country that isn’t hailed as a touristic destination, and buried in the heart of South America, I figured it’d be another dusty Bolivian city.
Boy was I wrong.
Just because my corner of the Western world hadn’t been to Sucre, didn’t mean the rest of Europe was so ignorant. In fact, Sucre was founded by the Spanish in 1538.
What were the Spanish doing there? In short, relentlessly mining silver from nearby Potosí, which is counted among the world’s highest elevation cities. Sitting at 4,090 metres (13,420 ft), life at this altitude is literally, breath-taking. The Spanish couldn’t hack it, so they founded and based themselves out of Sucre, which lay at a comfortable 2,800 metres. The silver that was mined in Bolivia would finance Spain for the next three hundred years. I wonder, how many people today, are aware of this fact?
As wealth flowed from Potosí to Sucre, the population swelled and Sucre became a religious and cultural centre. The city grew, with architecture artfully blending European influence and local tastes, an aesthetic distinctly noted and recognized by UNESCO.
Inspecting present-day Sucre, one immediately sees (and admires) the European flair. Well-heeled locals go about their day, walking along manicured streets and through handsome plazas. There’s a Levi Store on Calle Bustillos and an American-scale supermarket a few blocks over.
Sucre is markedly cosmopolitan in contrast to slum-hugged La Paz and dust-choked Potosi. I really enjoyed my time there, much more than Lima (Peru’s capital). It’s the type of place I could see myself staying for a month or two, and judging from the number of expats, I’m not the only one to share this sentiment. Just take a look for yourself:
Have you been to Sucre? What did you think?
More Sucre: Sucre’s Drop-Dead Gorgeous Cemetery, Bolivia (PHOTOS)