Explosion Destroys Iconic Mural on Eve of Santa Cruz Bicentennial

by BoliviaBella
(Santa Cruz Bolivia)

One of Eastern Bolivia's most iconic murals is gone. Two days before Santa Cruz begins celebrating the bicentennial month of its first battle for freedom from Spain, an explosion rocked the downtown area at 1:00 a.m. Monday morning destroying the "Gesta del Oriente Boliviano" mural at Arenal Park, which depicts this battle.

The 240-square meter concrete wall sits atop a small hill overlooking a lagoon in downtown's Arenal Park, the first city park in Santa Cruz, which was recently renovated. The park re-opened just a few weeks ago. City managers had timed park renovations to coincide with the 24th of September as a gift to the city on its Bicentennial Day. The city itself is serenaded each year on the evening of the 23rd by the mural at the park with music, dancing, and other activities.

This iconic wall was built and sculpted between 1970 and 1971 by Santa Cruz artist Lorgio Vaca, known as the artist who also sculpted many of the city's other well-known statues, especially those that occupy the "rotondas" (traffic circles) that line the 2nd ring that encircles the city. The mural depicts various stages in the history of Santa Cruz, but the section depicting the city's first battle for freedom is the largest and was to have been especially poignant this year.

The explosion woke me up at 1:00 a.m. and seconds later my windows began to vibrate frighteningly. I rushed to the window overlooking downtown, in time to see the Arenal Park sector of town (about 8 blocks away) brightly lit and heavy smoke rising from the area. Although renovations had already changed the face of this park quite a lot, it will never again feel the same without the mural, under which we used to play and paddle little colored boats on the lagoon. Many people, myself included, will mourn childhood memories of the park now. 30 August 2010 is a very very sad day for Santa Cruz.

Authorities do not yet know what caused the explosion, but believe it may have been caused by an accumulation of natural gas inside the CastaƱuelas restaurant that was just built and opened on the island, of which the mural was one wall. The cloud of "smoke" seen last night was actually a huge dust cloud caused when the tons of concrete exploded. Homes and businesses in the area report it felt like an earthquake and many have suffered damage including shattered windows and cracked walls.

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