The trip to Candelaria

The trip to Candelaria

There is so much to say about Candelaria, where it is, what it is, what it meant and all the many trains of thought that it set off in my head. Far too much for a single blogpost, so there will be a few.

The communities around Sucre are renowned for their weaving and, knowing my passion for all things woven, my girl done good by organising a trip to one of them. Candelaria is about 90 km southwest of Sucre. The journey takes you through landscape of staggering beauty; this is big, big country, mountains in the near and far distance on a scale that our British or even European eyes are just not used to. And up in this mountain world you come to a fertile valley stretching for miles, the plain of the Yamparas, a pre-Incan people who farmed on a piece of heaven high in the Andes. The Incas did some nasty stuff to them; they were a rum lot those Incas, brutal, controlling and capable of some far-fetched feats of inhumanity.

After the Yamparas plain, you pass through the small town of Tarabuco where many a tourist takes a day trip from Sucre on a Sunday to see the huge market that fills the town, a market selling every conceivable product and then some, especially well-known for textiles. Tarabuco is also the name of one of the distinctive Bolivian weaving styles. Different communities have their own weaving traditions and motifs, the most prominent in the areas around Sucre being the Tarabuco and the Jaiq’a. Weaving here is a form of social and cultural commentary so the Tarabuco weavers weave the story of the world around them while the Jaiq’a weavers weave the spirit world. More on that in another blog because it’s really fascinating – and not just for weaving obsessives like me!

Taking a cobbled road out of Tarabuco (and what a road – the dry-stone waller in me was salivating at the aesthetic of its design and construction) you travel another 30 km through some tiny rural communities until you reach Candelaria, home to, at a guess, about 70 souls. Our trip was to spend a night at the Hacienda Candelaria, learn about its history and visit weavers in their homes. Since we were the only two on the tour, in effect we were the personal guests of the hacienda owner, the splendid Dona Elizabeth, of whom more by and by. She accompanied us on the journey from Sucre; she was our host, our guide, our provider, purveyor of food and stories, history-teller and interpreter of what we saw. She is quite a woman.

Natasha had said that a trip to Bolivia (or Peru) would show me the real South America. She said it was where I would see indigenous people living lives little changed for hundreds of years. And that I would see the spectacular contrast with Argentina, especially viewed from Buenos Aires. I now understand what she meant. My blogposts from Sucre maybe already hinted at this but being a city, Sucre gave me some familiar reference points. The trip to Candelaria was something altogether new; this was a glimpse into a truly different world…….