In September Santa Cruz is the Place to Be!

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September is the most exciting month in Santa Cruz each year because this department celebrates its ephemerides in full gala with lots of social, cultural and music events. However, 2010 is an extra special time to be here. Santa Cruz is celebrating the bicentennial of its first attempt at gaining freedom from Spain and has been celebrating all year, all leading up to the most special day for Santa Cruz, the 24th of September. There will be more events than you can possibly attend, and a dynamic, festive air about the city and throughout the entire region this month. Other regions of Bolivia will be celebrating similar bicentennials on different dates.

Santa Cruz is now the largest city in Bolivia and the economic engine of the country. With growth comes change and with the rapid influx of immigrants from all over the country and the world, many cruceño customs and traditions are being forgotten! In an attempt to ensure this doesn’t happen, cruceños have been making a valiant, praise-worthy special effort since the beginning of the year to recover some of their lost foods, handcrafts, games, and other customs and have also worked to restore some of the city’s icons. Here’s a summary of what’s been happening and what is still to come. Whether you’re just visiting or living now in Santa Cruz, enjoy learning about Eastern Bolivia’s cultures and customs!

Santa Cruz is over 450 years old. The tiny town with a population of less than 50,000 just 50 years ago is now approaching 2 million. See how Santa Cruz went from tiny town to Bolivia’s economic trendsetter. So why are we celebrating the Santa Cruz bicentennial?

Santa Cruz sets aside the last Sunday of August each year to celebrate the customs and traditions of this region. Read about Día de la Tradición Cruceña which took place on August 29th, here.

Tiny rural towns have their own special place in all of these celebrations. You’ve missed both the Biennial International Baroque and Renaissance Music Festival and the National Yearly Renaissance Music Festival that take place in multiple Jesuit Mission towns each year, but you can read about them here. And prepare for the International Theater Festival, also organized by APAC! It’s coming up early next year.

There have been several typical food festivals at the Cabañas, a popular weekend strip at the Piraí River. There the “cabañeros” (owners of the restaurants that line the entrance boulevard) have held festivals to commemorate several specific dishes, such as zonzo, patasca, and majadito, ending in one big typical foods festival on Sunday the 30th where visitors were able to taste some of the traditional foods that are being forgotten. See more on the Patasca Festival, the Majadito Festival and the Traditional Foods Festival. Delicious! Some of the lost foods that are being recovered are also being served at the new Casa del Camba in Urubó on Sundays.

Chef Noly, of Noly’s World Cuisine, who contributes articles about Bolivian food and culture to our site every week on Wacataya Wednesdays, heard about this and has decided to dedicate her Wednesday posts to the Lost Foods of Eastern Bolivia throughout the month of September as well, although she began on the last Wednesday in August. Here’s her first “Lost Foods” post. Her second post will be online on Wednesday. Subscribe to our Blog so you won’t miss it! You can share your favorite recipes too.

In similar fashion, regional culture and food festivals have been organized over the past few weeks at the Parque Urbano. Here different rural regions of the Department of Santa Cruz have been selling their typical foods and handcrafts. The latest of these was the Chaco Region Cultural Festival which was by preceded by the Chiquitano Guarayo Cultural Festival and the Santa Cruz Valleys Cultural Festival.

Not to be left out, Bolivia’s numerous Japanese communities celebrated their culture too. It was a beautiful thing.

Santa Cruz youth and children performed on along the 2nd ring (Avenida Cristobal de Mendoza) at the Elay Puej Festival in a colorful display of Eastern Bolivian dances and rhythms.

Over a year ago authorities closed down Parque Arenal and completely remodeled it as a gift to the city for its Bicentennial. The park re-opened just a couple of weeks ago and is to be the scene of the crowning of Miss Santa Cruz on the evening of July 23rd. Amazingly, as I write this, we are lamenting the loss of one of the city’s most iconic structures! Early this morning, as I was up writing this edition of our newsletter, the 240-square meter mural wall that depicts the history of Santa Cruz at Parque Arenal EXPLODED and was completely destroyed!

And of course we can’t forget to mention the largest expo fair in South America, which takes place right here in Santa Cruz de la Sierra every year. The FEXPOCRUZ (Feria Exposición de Santa Cruz will take place from September 17-26 at the fairgrounds on Avenida Roca y Coronado. This expo, which takes place every year and is the pride of Santa Cruz, will attract over 500,000 visitors to Santa Cruz during the month of September. It is truly the largest showcase of cruceño entrepreneurism! You can’t miss Expocruz 2010!

Coming up in September

September 4th is Bolivian National Protected Areas Day to create awareness about Bolivia’s important national parks and reserves. This is especially important this year as throughout much of the month of August when irresponsible farmers burned nearly 2 million hectares of irreplaceable forest to the ground when the fires they lit to clear forest for farmland got out of control. This happened throughout much of Bolivia, smothering the country in smoke for weeks, closing airports, burning down homes and villages, and creating a dangerous public health hazard that send hundreds of people to hospitals with respiratory problems.

Here’s the 2010 Municipal Cultural Events Agenda although these aren’t all of the events planned. The Prefecture, private and public organizations, and citizens themselves will be planning dozens more. So to be sure you don’t miss any cool events, be sure to check out our events announced in English and our events announced in Spanish pages. In addition, Subscribe to our Blog or our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.

Here’s the Cochabamba September Cultural Calendar courtesy of the Cochabamba Mayor’s Office Tourism Director.

Don’t forget to visit the Casa de la Cultura on the central plaza and the many museums and art galleries of Santa Cruz for some very special exhibits this month.

As most of Bolivia’s nine departments have or will be celebrating 200 years of independence from Spain this year, we decided to celebrate Bolivia! Tell what you love about your favorite Bolivian cities and towns!

For Expats: Culture Transition Coach Heather Markel’s 10-part series of culture transition tips continues through September. We’ll be featuring her video tips every Wednesday in our living in Bolivia forum where you can also see the previous 7 tips in case you missed them. In October, we’ll be featuring her new video series for expats on how to start your own business!

Stay informed throughout the month

The Message Board is where I post messages about things I think you might be interested in throughout the month. Anything goes as long as it’s useful! Check it out daily – things change here quickly. You can also subscribe to my blog to get updates each and every time I add or modify a page. It’s the best way to stay informed between issues of this Ezine! You'll find interesting news, great flight deals, reviews of new books about Bolivia, highlighted articles, and anything else that's useful to Bolivia tourists and expats.

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Bella Store is a great place to shop for the upcoming winter holidays. Shop for alpaca sweaters, Andean handicrafts, leather, ceramics, arts, souvenirs and more. Bella Store is a National Geographic and Novica affiliate. When you Shop the National Geographic Store! All purchases support research, education, conservation, and exploration.

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