I have recently reached a goal I did not set for myself: travel to at least 30 countries before turning 30. And, man, I am so grateful!
Yet after visiting so many places, there is one thing I have started to grow weary about: mass tourism!
People’s sincere desire to discover the world and to immerse into its rich diversity of cultures and ecosystems is slowly (or perhaps rapidly) killing it. I’m part of the horde, so I take the blame!
But hey, there are good news!
There are still many hidden gems around the world, places where few tourists have ever set foot in. They are rich of color, culture and authenticity and they’re ready to teach you about beauty, history and sustainability.
Chiquitania is one of them!
Chiquitania! Eastern Bolivia.
Yes, there’s more to Bolivia than just the Andes, cities at breathtaking high altitudes and Quechua and Aymara culture.
Spanish speakers will find the name a bit funny, I know, as it is a derivative of “chiquito”, which means “tiny”, or “teeny-weeny”.
Though it is hard to render it in English, Chiquitania would roughly translate to “The Place of the Teeny-Weeny”.
“What the heck…?!”Me.
But the name tells the story of this mystical place!
When the first Spanish colonizers arrived to what today is known as “Chiquitania”, one of the things they noticed was the low entrances people had to their homes. They were supposed to protect them from mosquitoes and tigers and people had to crawl in order to get in.
Hence the name!
Chiquitania’s story talks about conquest, colonialism, subjugation, redemption and reinvention.
The arrival of the Spanish colonizers had a devastating effect on native tribes. Epidemics and fights decimated the local population and many survivors were forced into slavery.
But there was one alternative: Jesuite reductions. These were self-sustaining political and religious communities governed by Jesuits (a Catholic order), who were helped by caciques (native leaders), to which the Spanish monarchy granted special status.
A sort of a State within the State.
Yes, reductions were a way of imposing European culture and religion, but at the same time they offered protection against slave traders and a sustainable political and economic organization.
The Jesuits were expelled from South America in 1767, which meant the end of the Reduction system and the ruin of many of the churches built there.
Yet in the past decades Chiquitano churches were restored and in 1990 they were declared UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The main tourist attraction Chiquitano villages offer today are their beautiful churches, which mix European baroque and indigenous styles, and the Baroque music festivals.
The churches are a perfect representation of what Chiquitania is today: a place where European and indigenous cultures meet, fuse and coexist in harmony.
Despite its beauty and rich culture, not many foreign tourists venture into the Chiquitania, which makes it a perfect place to visit if you want authenticity and peace.
In my next post I’ll give you some tips on the itinerary, cost and other details!
P.S.: What are some unique places you guys have visited that haven’t been spoiled by mass tourism yet? Comment below!