Moto Mendez: One-Handed Hero

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You can visit the home of Moto Mendez (whose real name is Eustaquio Mendez) when you travel Tarija Bolivia. You'll find the house of this one-handed war hero in San Lorenzo.

Eustaquio Mendez had only one hand and yet he led one of the defenses that helped free Tarija and Bolivia from Spanish rule. His house in San Lorenzo, just half an hour from the city of Tarija, is now a museum. It's interesting to see how very simply some Spaniards and mestizos lived during Colonial times. Most of us assume the Spanish all flouted their wealth and lived in lavish mansions. Moto Mendez, a mestizo, was different. He lived in a small adobe house made with hand-hewn wooden beams with his mother one block from the tiny central plaza of San Lorenzo.

When you visit you'll notice the home has only three rooms. The tiny entrance hall (where the Museum receptionist has a desk) leads directly into the large living/dining room and that leads directly out to the garden. Above the tiny entrance hall is a bedroom, but you can no longer visit that room because the simple wooden stairs are too fragile. However, pay attention to how small the little foyer downstairs is. The bedroom above it is exactly the same size, and he shared it with his mother so he afforded himself no luxuries. The bedroom window opened onto a wooden porch that hangs out from the wall above the home's front door.

The house, like most of its time, has no indoor kitchen. Cooking was done outside in a clay and brick oven in the garden next to what is now a modern bathroom but used to be an outhouse (feel free to use it if you want). You'll also notice a deep water well. Other than the fact that it's made from adobe instead of wooden logs, it isn't unlike the houses you'd see in the TV show 'Little House on the Prairie'.

What used to be the living/dining room has now been turned into a small museum in honor of Moto Mendez and here you'll see some glass cases that house some of the documents and items he owned along with several other larger items like a bust of his likeness, his war armor, and a large silver-plated chest that contains his ashes. You might want to read the history of Tarija and especially the page on the Battle of La Tablada, the decisive battle in which he helped defeat the Spanish, before you visit this museum. You can see a large statue of Moto Mendez on his horse in the San Lorenzo central plaza.

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