Charagua in Santa Cruz Bolivia


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Santa Cruz Crece Verde is a voluntary environmental education alliance.

Charagua is a small town of primarily Guaraní origin, and the capital of the province of Cordillera in the Chaco region of the Department of Santa Cruz, 400 kilometers from the city of Santa Cruz. Its population has grown to nearly 30,000. The Chaco is a dry, hot, and in some places somewhat inhospitable region in Southeastern Bolivia. The Parapetí River runs through the region. The main economic activities here are agriculture and cattle ranching. Large reserves of oil and natural gas have been found here as well.

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During the Chaco War which took place between Bolivia and Paraguay in the early 1930’s, a large section of Bolivian territory in the Chaco region was lost to Paraguay. This specific location was overtaken by the Paraguayan army for two days, between April 18 and 20, 1935. However my stepdad, whose father was a doctor there during the Chaco War, tells that it is often said the Paraguayans had no experience fighting in the hills (as Paraguay is completely flat) and due to this advantage, the Bolivian army was able to recover the town for Bolivia even though a huge section of the country’s territory was ultimately lost. Seventy years later, some buildings are still marked from the bullet holes which have not been repaired as a reminder to future generations that Charagua remains proudly Bolivian. Every 21st of April the town celebrates the date on which the Paraguayans were defeated and the town was reclaimed with a small parade.

The town's streets are narrow and quiet and its people are charming and rather laid back. As with most Bolivian towns, there is a small main plaza called Plaza Principal 21 de Abril in the exact center. Next to it is the Church of San Miguel, home to the Virgin of Charagua. Her story is unusual. The actual statue of the virgin was stolen by a Paraguayan soldier from the Church in 1935 when the war was ending. As it was heavy, he cut her into two pieces, but eventually, the statue became too much for him to carry and he abandoned both pieces which were then picked up by another soldier who somehow managed to carry them to Asunción. Upon arriving, and very ill, he promised the virgin he would return her to her homeland if she spared his life and those of his family. However, he didn’t do so and the statue was not recovered by Bolivia until 55 years later when a group of missionaries from Santa Cruz contacted one of his family members who had inherited it, to request its return. The townspeople lovingly call her “La Generala” (The Lady General).

Ruta Verde Bolivia is our preferred tour operator for this tour.

There is also a small military museum called the Regimiento Boquerón that contains some relics of the Chaco War such as maps, photos, and army uniforms. The Charagua Museum contains archeological pieces, mostly of Guaraní origin, as well as musical instruments used in the area. It also has a salon dedicated exclusively to the Chaco War. Aguas Calientes is located about 5 miles away.

For this and other ecotours in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, contact Ruta Verde Bolivia. Owners Gjis and Maria Eugenia speak English, Spanish and Dutch.



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