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San Miguel de Velasco

Population: 5,500

San Miguel del Velasco was officially founded in 1721, but had begun its life earlier as an overspill settlement of neighbouring San Rafael. Nothing much has changed here since Jesuit times, and it’s a great place to sit back and soak up the unique atmosphere. The small town of 5,500 inhabitants is also an active mission, ran by Dominican nuns. It’s situated about 40 km south of San Ignacio de Velasco.

The church is considered one of the most beautiful of all the Jesuit churches; a set of steps lead you up to its impressive painted facade from the main plaza. Inside, you’ll find more colourful murals and motifs including the stunning painted ceiling depicting the rompimiento de gloria (literally, the break of glory) surrounded by cherubs. The gold indented alter is equally striking and the pulpit is considered to be the most important of all the Jesuit churches due to its intricate polychrome red and gold leafing. You shouldn’t miss this church, a lot of the features are original and it’s probably the most authentic restoration of all the Jesuit churches.

Like near-by San Ignacio, the restoration of the church reignited the artisan community in the town and it’s a great place to pick up authentic carvings. Music is also important here and the town has its own orchestra and hosts a number of concerts during the bi-annual international Baroque music festival. Other celebrations in San Miguel include the traditional Patron Saints Day festivities on the 29th September, which goes on for three days, and Corpus Christi. There’s a museum just off the main plaza documenting local customs, the Museo Etnofolklorico and the Casa de Cultura is next door. Just out of town there’s a small lake that’s popular with the locals, especially at weekends, and some caves with rock paintings a little further afield.

There are a number of ranches out of town where you can stay, or try one of the hotels in the center, including San Miguel, La Pascana or Altiplano. There are several buses back and forth from San Ignacio de Velasco every day.


Other places nearby San Miguel de Velasco: Vallegrande, Amboro National Park, Yacuiba, Santa Ana de Velasco , Villamontes, Camiri, Buena Vista, Parque Nacional Kaa-lya del Gran Chaco, The Bolivian Pantanal and San José de Chiquitos.

02 Feb 2012

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