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.
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 It is clear that whilst old-style colonialism may have ended, it has been replaced by equally insidious forms that go hand in hand with the continued economic exploitation of the region & attempts to ‘control’ it.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.