08 Apr Sucre – social stuff
Like I said in the last blog, in Sucre you are in a much more indigenous society. Skin tone and facial features are striking – smooth skin the colour of burnished walnut, high cheekbones and jet black hair distinguishing the majority of the city dwellers. How they dress sets apart indigenous from mestizo but it also distinguishes generations within the indigenous community; it’s rare to see a young person wearing traditional clothing. It’s as if there are two indigenous societies in the city: one, the original, andino society of middle-aged and older people; the other a society that’s already made a transition to a world conforming to contemporary western styles (and values?). I don’t know if ‘andino’ is the right word but it helps distinguish the two social strands. Someone correct me please if I am wrong or out of order.
Andino women (strictly speaking that should be Andina) wear a simple, loose woollen dress, always black, wrapped across the front and held with big pins like the ones we have in our kilts in Scotland, and with a belt around the waist. Alternatively a wide pleated skirt in a dark colour. And never without the regulation bibbed apron, its shoulder straps held across the back with a crossbar of fabric. Almost without exception, the women keep their hair long and wear it in two plaits tied together at the bottom and always and everywhere they wear brimmed felt hats. The men, at least in the city, wear less overtly traditional clothing but they’re also always hatted. Both men and women are often carrying things wrapped in bright woven blankets tied across their backs. The contents of these colourful backpacks could be goods to sell at the market, or things bought there, extra layers of clothing, who knows what else but the backpack is universal.
They are reputed to be gentle friendly people but you have to take that as read. You don’t engage with them in the city. I never made eye contact and never saw them make eye contact with other local people except fellow andinos. These are parallel worlds and it struck me that the traditionally-clad people were a bit like us – standung out from the crowd like visitors in the city. The one place these two societies do seem to intersect is in the huge market in the town where the stalls are run mainly by andinos while the customers are from all groups.
The market is a bustling, noisy, colourful affair with a massive range of foodstuffs – exotic and copious fruit and vegetables that have you scanning the cookbooks in your head thinking – if only; meat, cheese fish, and a whole variety of domestic products. It’s particularly famous for its juice bar – well really a whole area of raised stalls where the women (and here the women seemed to be from both ‘societies’) will concoct you a juice from an astonishing number of fruits blended to sublime smoothness. Tempting, but we had already had an eye-watering citrus kick up the road at the aptly named Cafe Mirador and couldn’t handle another acid attack.
That’s about it from Sucre – except to say that if you ever go, stay at Casa Al Tronco, a fabulous B&B up above the town run by Tania and Ebo. Gentle attention to detail, a touch of quirky eccentricity, lovely rooms and breakfasts to die for. Choose the muesli one – sets you up for the day.
Next we’re off to Candelaria for a whole other experience of Bolivian society………..