Standing proudly on the Plaza 25 de Mayo in Sucre is the Casa de la Libertad – one of the most important buildings in the country, and the location of the constitution being signed after Bolivia’s revolution against the Spanish.
But it is not a particularly straightforward or pleasant history, and our guide told us of the anguish Bolivia still feels over losing its only coastline, and therefore access to sea trade, to Chile. It was also made clear to us that although the Spanish were overthrown to bring autonomy and freedom to Bolivia, it was led by descendants of Spaniards born in the Americas, and in actual fact the indigenous population, often referred to here as “originales” (never “indios”), had things pretty much as bad after the liberation as they did before, with land being taken from them and next to no rights. Indeed, this sorry situation has persevered and even until recent years there has been an ongoing struggle for indigenous people to get equal rights in Bolivia.
The Casa de la Libertad is a proud memory to Bolivia’s struggle for independence and its various martyrs over the years, including one woman I found particularly inspiring, Juana Azurduy de Padilla. This woman led troops in the fight against Spain, but ultimately died in poverty.
The Casa de la Libertad allows you to scratch the surface of Bolivia’s long and tumultuous history, and we left wanting to find out more about the various stages in the process of liberation and the key actors in that process. It is a beautiful and fascinating place to spend a couple of hours, and the guides are only too pleased to show you around and answer any questions. We felt more educated about Sucre after we had been, which helped us feel even more connected here. The very streets of Sucre are all named after heroes and events – Plaza 25 de Mayo, Ancieto Arce, Bustillos – each one tells a story. I have always enjoyed visiting places where history was made, and it seems a shame that other countries are perhaps not as proud of, or even aware of, their own history as Bolivia clearly is.