Urubicha in Santa Cruz Bolivia

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urubicha guarayos santa cruz bolivia

Image copyright ©2003 Dr. Daniel Beams

Urubicha is a town located directly North of the city of Santa Cruz on the banks of the Blanco River where the Jesuits built one of their missions. Its natural surroundings are spectacular and its lagoons are always full of life. The people here, of Guarayo origin (most of the Jesuit missions are in the Chiquitano region) have made it their mission to preserve the baroque music brought from Europe by the Jesuits. I should note that when I visited the offices of the Mancomunidad Chiquitana (Association of Chiquitano peoples) they told me that the temple in Urubichá was built by Franciscan priests, not Jesuits.

There is a music school here, and an orchestra that has traveled to other countries to exhibit. Violins and other musical instruments are made here by highly skilled artisans. In 2003 the Urubicha Choir and Orchestra won the 13th "Bartolomé de las Casas" award in recognition of their efforts to preserve the musical heritage of the Jesuit Missions. View these beautiful photos of the Urubichá Music Institute on Facebook.

This video features music by the Urubicha Orchestra and Choir, is very well made and is well worth 1.5 minutes of your time.

YouTube video credited to http://www.youtube.com/george1621.

Its roughly 4500 inhabitants are simple and live off the land and grow corn, bananas, peanuts and manioc, mostly for their own consumption. Many walk 5-6 six miles to get to their crops, and nearly a mile to collect water and wash their clothes in the river. The town has several workshops where artisans carve, paint, and weave hammocks and other items for tourists.

This is a very poor town. There is very little running water and most homes do not have electricity. The town has been all but forgotten and many children do not get an education. There is only one health post. It is very secluded, and obviously in need of aid. However, the people are friendly and open to visitors. This town, if not for its efforts to conserve its baroque music traditions, would be relatively unknown. Probably wouldn't even be on the map.

Transportation to Urubicha

To get to Urubichá from Santa Cruz you can either drive or take a bus. You take highway 4 to highway 9, then route 785. It's the highway to Trinidad in El Beni and it's paved all the way to Ascención. And it's only 35 kilometers from there to Urubichá.

The easiest (although long) way to get there is to take a bus. Two bus companies go all the way to Guarayos:

Trans Guarayos bus company - get a bus at the Terminal Bimodal (the combination bus/train station in the city of Santa Cruz). The bus to Urubichá leaves every day at 12:30 passing through San Ramón, El Puente and Ascención de Guarayos before arriving in Urubichá.

Trans Oriente bus company - get a bus at the Terminal Bimodal. Two buses leave each day at 6:40 a.m. and at 9:00 p.m. passing first through San Ramón, El Puente and Ascención de Guarayos first.

What to See in Urubicha

You can visit the Río Blanco river near the town, the Franciscan temple on the central plaza, and the music school (Escuela de Música) where you can maybe see their world-famous orchestra and choir practicing. If you want to experience how people live in these remote towns, take a little drive to nearby Yaguarú (35 kilometers from Urubichá) and Laguna Yaguarú.

There are also some artisan workshops where you can purchase woven fabrics, hammocks, wood carvings, and hand-made musical instruments.

Where to Eat in Urubicha

You can get a very simple, very basic and very cheap lunch or dinner at the Pensión Urubichá near the plaza. You may want to consider purchasing some food and drinks in one of the larger towns prior to arriving in Urubichá.

Hotels and Services in Urubicha

Urubichá has mototaxis (motorcycle taxis), tour guides (they don't speak English or any other language), and phones. For more information you can call the Urubichá municipal government's tourism and cultural unit (Urubichá Unidad de Turismo y Cultural del Gobierno Municipal) at (591-3) 313-7045. The only place to stay is the Tucunaré Hostel downtown.

HOSTAL TUCUNARE | Urubichá | Tel: (591-3) 332-7656 or 332-7218

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