Baroque: Bolivian Music in the Amazon

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Watch these videos (three parts of a documentary) about the history of baroque music in the Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

When most people think about Bolivian music they think of Andean music (panpipes, charangos, guitars and flutes) but few people know that in the 1500's when Jesuit priests came over from Spain they constructed dozens of immense and very beautiful temples in the middle of the Amazon jungle region, which today covers the Eastern part of Bolivia, Western part of Brazil and Northern part of Paraguay.

These amazing Catholic churches were built in regions occupied by various different indigenous groups. In Bolivia, many of them are found in the Chiquitania, a huge area of Eastern Bolivia inhabited by the Chiquitano peoples. Today these communities continue to thrive around the churches and towns the Jesuits built 500 years ago and several of them have been renovated to create a Jesuit Missions tour circuit. These are active, living towns and the historical value of these churches is immeasurable.

During the 80 years they were present in the region the Jesuits taught the indigenous peoples to fashion and play the typical instruments and music of the time: baroque music. Five hundred years later the Chiquitanos continue to make violins and play Bolivian music in the Amazon and have even travelled throughout the world to give concerts. Santa Cruz organizes an International Baroque Music Festival every two years (only on even-numbered years) which is attended by dozens of international choirs and baroque orchestras. Watch these videos about the history of Chiquitos an important and thriving region of Bolivia. If you accessed this article from our July 2011 online newsletter, click here to return.

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