What’s this – a Chapel in our garden!?

Well not actually our garden of course, but in our ‘casa colonial hostel’ (colonial era house hostel) near the centre of #Cochabamba there was a chapel tucked away in the otherwise luscious green garden! During our stay we did not see anyone using it, but it was clearly well maintained, even if it must have originally been built many centuries before. From over the garden wall we could also hear regular bouts of singing etc from the church virtually next door.

Perhaps given the history of south America we shouldn’t have been so surprised. We’ve commented before about the extensive & ongoing domination of catholicism in Peru going back nearly 500 years, and the reasons for this. In Bolivia it is much the same (Bolivia was once called Alto Peru, or Upper Peru, by the Spanish) – colonial era churches, monasteries & schools continue to dominate the former colonial centres of cities & towns. Whilst as often as not very large crosses or figures of (the white) Christ are prominent on the hills overlooking urban centres.

Cochabamba’s own ‘White Christ’ looks down from on high

‘we are praying for you’ – evangelists in Cochambamba’s centre










It is not just the old-school catholics that are present either. We have been surprised to note just how many evangelical style new churches we’ve come across in Bolivia. They may not utilise the levels of oppression used by the colonial catholics, instead they often offer varying levels of social support such as food kitchens (echos of the new poverty back in the UK), but their aim remains the same – to civilise and ‘to save’ the the local population.

Back in Cusco, Peru, we’d become aware of how many evangelical missionaries were still coming into Peru & Bolivia to save souls etc, having had the misfortune, and shock, to overhear some of their planning sessions in one location. It is clear that whilst old-style colonialism may have ended, it has been replaced by equally insidious forms that go hand in hand with the continued economic exploitation of the region & attempts to ‘control’ it. The local people still have some way to go to truly free themselves from over 500 years of misery & subjugation.


Feast! Of the Immaculate Conception. Of course!

The city of Cusco, Peru, in the Andes, is it seems a city of many festivities, celebrations & feasts. Most, but not quite all these days, have their roots in Spanish colonialism & government, and the enforcement of the Catholic faith. So within our first 3 full days in Cusco we witnessed not only a regional celebration in the main square of the creation of the national police service (6th December), but also the Feast day of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December.

cusco_virginOn the Feast of the Immaculate Conception we saw members many of Cusco’s 40+ Catholic churches parade around the streets of their locality, carrying on their shoulders huge statues of the Virgin Mary. It just happened to be pissing down for much of the day, but it didnt seem to dampen their arduour. Leaving aside the absurdity of both the Immaculate Conception – impregnated by…the Holy Spirit? Please! – and the birth of Jesus Christ less than 3 weeks later on Christmas day, one wonders why on earth Cusquenians fell for this story? Continue reading