San Miguel

Trip Start Jul 05, 2009
Trip End Jul 04, 2010

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Flag of Bolivia  , Santa Cruz,
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We were really excited about visiting San Miguel, the third Church of the day. We had heard the town itself had a Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid feel to it and that the interior of the Jesuit Templo would be mind blowing. Our preconceptions were not wrong.

The plaza was still the focus of this little town giving us an immediately warm reception. As we approached the church the main doors were shut which was the norm in all the towns. Once again we ventured around the back and into the courtyard. We passed two girls of about ten who were waiting, Violins in tow, for their daily orchestra practice. Having no luck finding our way in we ventured back to the girls and in our best spanish asked them if they could help. They giggled a lot and then ran ahead beckoning us to the Sarcristy. Their giggles soon turned to screams and fear as a huge black dog lunged towards us from the Priest's quarters. We all turned white and clung to each other. Fortuantely this awoke the priest and he came to our rescue. We were suprised to see a black priest walking towards us, the last time we had seen a black person was way back in Coroico. After a few minutes chatting he apologised and said he couldn't tell us much about the Church because he had only been in the Parish for a month. It turned out that he is orginally from Papua New Guinea and was a Franciscan Missionary. What was this Priest doing in the back of beyond in Bolivia? Unfortunately his shyness quickly took him away so we never found out his story. 

However, we were replaced with a most excellent guide come Caretaker, who was an absolute sweetheart. He spent twenty minutes or so taking us around the stunning church passionately explaining how it was painted and lovingly restored. Afterwards he directed us to a nearby Artesanea that sells Chiquitano art; mainly wood carvings in the same Baroque style as those in the church. When we arrived we saw a group of men at work on huge wooden Jesus' and Marys, using skills that have been passed down from generation to generation since the Jesuit era. The art we saw was amazing and totally different to anything else we've seen on our travels. Keen to support the community and have some memoirs of our visit we purchased a couple of gems.

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