Issue - February 2008

February 2008

In this special edition, we want to offer you a closer look at Carnival by Walter Sanchez, Luis Fernando Terrazas describes the architectural style of Laguna Carmen, Emma Luna gives her experienced knowledge on The Tropics of Cochabamba and Amy Stillman tells about cochabanner more...

February 2008

Laguna Carmen. . .
a lost cultural paradise

The spatial structure of Laguna Carmen can be characterized by the contrasts of Hispanic and Inka models.

Luís Fernando Terrazas
Architecture-San Simon University

Laguna Carmen is a small town situated in the Valle Alto of Cochabamba (2.687 m.a.s.l.), close to Punata. It is located on a plane near the river Sulti, next to the population of San Benito.

The people of this area are predominantly Quechua speaking. The Incan concept and organization of agricultural space began with the arrival of the Incas to these valleys around 1430 A.C, and is characterized by square or rectangular strips of land called “suyu”, such as those found in the valley of Urubamba (Ollantaytambo - Peru) or in Pocona (Cochabamba – Bolivia). The Hispanic concept of agricultural space is organized around an hacienda, or an estate. Here, the space belongs to the hacienda. If we observe the spatial structures around Laguna Carmen, where the hacienda is, you cannot see any houses, whereas the part of the town, contains an asymmetrical space, separated without any particular order (see picture).

It is possible that this structure had to do with the societies that inhabited the area before the arrival of the Incas to the Valle Alto, therefore considered local. We also believe that it could have been adapted by the Incas, influenced by the Uru population, to the Valle Alto and that they lived close to the rivers. In both cases, this landscape constructs a memory of the use of space and responds to different ways of life between the Incas and the Spanish.

The living quarters also respond to a type of architectural structure and construction similar to those performed by the Uru on the riversides of the River Desaguadero. We know that, in technological terms, the Uru were a people that developed the use of adobe construction, with homes shaped in circular or domed structures, similar to those found in Laguna Carmen. There is one difference however. Although the homes of Laguna Carmen have a dome shaped roof, which is what gives this cultural landscape its characteristic, their base is rectangular, making the possibility of Inca or Hispanic influence present.

There are few places in Cochabamba that maintain this spherical structure. The modifications are few, compared to those that the traveler, Alcides D’Orbigny, drew while passing through Cochabamba during the XIX century. We can witness these in various places such as Tiquipaya (in Putucu), Presa Mexico (leaving the area of Santivanez), Jusku Molle (close to the cementary of Punata) and Choroc (the first road leading to Tapacari).

Sadly, this cultural landscape is diminishing due to two main causes. The first being modernization caused by the people of Laguna Carmen immigrating to Argentina and then returning to modify the aesthetic appearance and conception of space. The second being the people abandoned these homes after the owner passed away.

This cultural landscape, or the ruins of what used to be, should be preserved for future generations. The lack of policies for maintaining cultural patrimony by the municipal government, along with the destruction of these structures, does not even allow for an efficient education on restoring or saving these structures. As a first step, municipalities and others who are responsible for these policies should propose a project of inventorying what remains. Subsequently, they should not only try to maintain the image, but also recuperate the technologies used to build. This would not only contribute to forming a new vision of our past, or support building procedures as a local identity, but also it would facilitate proposing new solutions to housing problems Cochabamba is facing through its own technology.

The Tropics of

When we think of the tropics of Cochabamba, we immediately relate it to the Chapare region because it is the most popular, when in reality there are 3 provinces that make up the tropics; Chapare, Carracso and Tiraque. The South American Amazon begins in Chapare and extends all the way to the Cordillaera Oriental (West Andes). Another town commonly associated with the tropics is Villa Tunari, famous for its ecotourism and warm climates, averaging 24ºC (75 ºF). The annual rainfall average is of 2.000 mm of rain in the lower regions of the tropics and 5.000 mm in the higher regions.

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