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Top Bolivia

Santa Cruz

With 1.5 million people, Santa Cruz de la Sierra (commonly referred to as Santa Cruz) is the largest city in Bolivia. Blessed with resources and infrastructure that are responsible for approximately 30 percent of the national GDP, it is also the richest.

First founded in 1561, the city originally served as a supplier of rice, cotton, sugar and fruit for the rest Spain's South American colony. During this time it also was an important staging point for Jesuit and Christian missionaries, who imposed their religious beliefs upon the ethnic groups in the area. The city maintained relative autonomy until well after Bolivia won independence in 1809, but wars in the 20th century with Brazil and Paraguay forced the Bolivian government to pay more attention to the frontier town. Transportation to and communication with the area soon improved, opening trade opportunities that brought economic prosperity.

That prosperity has continued thanks in large part to large oil reserves in the eastern part of Bolivia. Home to glitzy headquarters for multinational corporations, Santa Cruz has seen an influx of money and development in the region. Developing in unison, wealthy middle and upper classes have sprung up unlike any found in other parts of Bolivia.

Residents of Santa Cruz have grown increasingly unhappy with La Paz in recent years, with many of Santa Cruz's wealthier residents expressing opposition to President Evo Morales, whose desire to redistribute wealth to Bolivia’s highland Indians in the west runs contrary to the region’s conservative values. Though not violent by deed, Santa Cruz's elite have on many occasions taken to the streets in a call for autonomy, and it is not uncommon to hear them pass derogatory jokes about Morales. Much of the ire stems from heavy-handed governance by Morales, including exerting more control over Santa Cruz's energy industry, but it also has roots in the cultural and social differences between La Paz and Santa Cruz. Whereas the former is home to a fair share of indigenous populations, the latter is decidedly more mestizo.

Political and social discussions aside, Santa Cruz benefits from a wealth of international influences (the town has notable German, Italian, Arabic, Indian Sikh and Japanese communities and had an important historical role along the Oriente trade route). As a result, the area has a wide array of quality food offerings and a wealth of available ingredients. Though sparse on sights, Santa Cruz still offers some worthwhile things to see, including Plaza 24 de Septiembre, San Lorenzo Cathedral, the Museum of Natural History and one of the best zoos in all of Bolivia.


Other places nearby Santa Cruz: Concepción, Roboré, Santiago de Chiquitos and Chochís, Yacuiba, Amboro National Park, The Bolivian Pantanal, San Javier, San Ignacio De Velasco, San Miguel de Velasco, Camiri and La Higuera.

23 Mar 2010

Things to do in Santa Cruz

Plaza 24 de Septiembre

In a town arguably void of sights, Plaza 24 de Septiembre, located in the center of Santa Cruz, is your best choice for sightseeing. A market graces the center of the square, and benches line the ...
City Park
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Basilica Menor de San Lorenzo

Originally founded in 1605, Santa Cruz’s cathedral was not completed until the mid-19th century. Today it overlooks Plaza 24 de Septiembre and serves as this city’s most iconic sight. Inside ...
Historical Building
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Parque El Arenal

A favorite among locals, this park surrounding a lagoon is a perfect place for lounging or taking a stroll. On an island in the middle of the lagoon there is a mural by Santa Cruz-born artist Carlo ...
City Park
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

La Ruta del Che (the Che Guevara Trail)

Santa Cruz is an important kicking-off point for the recently founded Che Guevara Trail, which follows the route of Che’s 1967 Bolivian Campaign that resulted in his capture and execution. The ...
Cultural Tour
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

JardĂ­n Zoologico

JardĂ­n ZoolĂłgico, considered by many to be the best in Bolivia, is a great alternative for viewing endangered wildlife if a trip to the jungle is not in the cards. Favorites here include pumas, ...
Other Activity
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Museo de Historia Natural Noel Kempff Mercado

University-ran Museo de Historia Natural Noel Kempff Mercado specializes in regional flora and fauna. The single room museum has several different zones displaying various animals and birds. These ...
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Biocentro Güembé

Km 7, on the road to Pongo, zona Los Batos, Tel: 3-370-0541, The world’s biggest butterfly dome, a 2,500 square meter bird aviary, a network of natural swimming pools and ...
Other Activity
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Parque EcolĂłgico Yvaga GuazĂş

This 14-hectare ecological park contains over 800 different plant species including orchids, palms and medicinal plants. Guided tours take you to an area of the park where you can observe wild ...
Other Activity
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Water Parks and Swimming

Santa Cruz’s tropical heat can make water-based activities a god send. Agualand (Friday-Sunday 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m., price $5-10) near the Viru Viru airport, is Bolivia’s biggest water park and has ...
Other Activity
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Museo GuaranĂ­

This interesting museum documents the culture of the GuaranĂ­, an indigenous group native to the lowlands who still maintain their own language and customs. Although small, this museum gives you the ...
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Cinema, cultural centers and art exhibitions

Santa Cruz’s 10 screen cinema, Cinecenter (On the Segundo Anillo, between Av. René Moreno and Monseñor Santistevan, Zona el Trompillo, Tel: 3-336-6949, ), shows mainly ...
Culture and Arts
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
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