Sucre, Casa de la Libertad

(continuer en français) – Last updated: October 4, 2020

In Sucre’s central square, the beautiful façade of the Casa de la Libertad attracts attention. Whether the heavy wooden gate reinforced with imposing nails is open or closed, it is clear that this is a place of significance.

Initially there was a college built by the Jesuits from 1621 onwards. This first educational institution was to lead to the creation of the university in 1624. The university is located in the building next door, its tower can be seen from the patio.

Upon entering the courtyard there is the same layout as the cloisters, four galleries with columns and light arches surrounding the space, with a fountain in the centre. In a corner, the sculpture of the hunter bending his bow evokes more the Amazonian part or the Chiquitania in the east of the country.

The former Jesuit chapel was used for examinations and later became the Parliament Chamber at the beginning of the republic. The stalls from the first assignment have been preserved there.

It was there that on August 6, 1825 Independence and the Republic were proclaimed. The campaign was led by Simon Bolivar, to whom the country owes its name, and Antonio José de Sucre, from whom the city took its name. One then the other were successively the first two Presidents of this young republic.

In reference to the historical events that took place here, the Casa de la Libertad remains a place for official ceremonies associated with the functioning of the State. The events that take place there are thus given the seal of the past. As there are some funerals, the funeral stretchers used to transport the coffins are displayed there.

On the side, a pathway leads to other rooms that complete the museum with spaces for researchers, with archives, library and map library. 

Sucre or La Paz, which is the capital?

In front of the Casa de la Libertad lies Plaza 25 De Mayo, celebrating May 25, 1809 when the insurrection movement against Spain began in Sucre and culminated in the declaration of independence in 1825. In 1809 Spain was then under the command of Napoleon, who installed his brother Joseph on the throne. This created a variety of movements in Spain and its colonies, for or against France, for or against the fallen Spanish monarchy. In South America, reactions quickly crystallized in a call for independence from the local elites who wanted to free themselves from the administrative control of the mainland.

In 1809 Sucre was still named Chuquisaca and derived its wealth mainly from the mines in the surrounding area, such as the silver mined in Potossi. It also had a university, where progressive ideas were already active. The city was therefore naturally one of the triggers of the independence movement. When after many battles independence was gradually declared by the different parts of the Spanish empire, representatives of what was then Upper Peru gathered in Chuquisaca and proclaimed Independence in this room of the Casa de la Libertad. Making the city the capital of the new country, as enshrined in the constitution drafted by Simon Bolivar.

The rest of the 19th century was no quieter, border wars with neighbours led to the reshaping of countries. Within Bolivian society itself, divergent currents of thought developed, based on regional antagonisms and divergent developments in economic fortunes. To simplify, Sucre was characterized by conservatism financed by silver mining, while La Paz was marked by liberalism supported by tin mining. As silver declined in favor of tin, La Paz took over during a cruel civil war in 1898-1899. The victors established executive and legislative power in La Paz.

So the result of all this is in duality. Officially and constitutionally, Sucre has been the capital of Bolivia since 1825. But after 1899, the seat of the Government and the Parliament were installed in La Paz. According to the principle of the Separation of Powers, the supreme judicial authority is located in Sucre. Today, a third city should be added to the equation, Santa Cruz in the east of the country, which is both the most populous and richest city in the country. But that’s another story…

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