March 2013

The city we imagine

In his text about urban images, Armando Silva gives us some clues to understand our cities in a different way. He emphasizes the necessity to initiate the construction of “urban sketches”, understood as “sites which produce recognition of collective identity” and which have a place in the minds of the inhabitants. These mental constructions should be no more than to see in which form architects and town planners design a city, except in the ways in which the existent people organize, circulate, consume and move in it:” It is not the city of objects, but the city of the people who in a way construct a form of being urban, characterized in front or inside of others”.

By: Walter Sánchez Canedo
Instituto de Investigaciones

Heroinas de la Corinilla Statue

With this idea it is proposed to make a “sketch of the (urban) sexuality, a masculine and a feminine city; a sketch of a rich and poor city; a sketch of the movement, which route one has to take to arrive at a site, what is the landscape one sees or supports in a city on the way between work and house” 1.

If we take on the challenge of realizing a sketch of the city of Cochabamba as a product of social imaginary the inhabitants of the city have, it is possible to have new forms to understand the city. One of the first questions would be: What is the “sexuality” which the city of Cochabamba has in the imagination of the people? Is it feminine or masculine? A first level of mental representation engraved in the memory and historical imaginary of the population, is of Cochabamba having a strong female identity. Where does this idea come from? Without doubt, a fundamental element comes from the historical reconstruction, made by Cochabamba historians since the ends of the 19th century, about the time of the defence of the city against the troops taking place in the hills of San Sebastián (Coronilla) in 1812, principally leaded by women. The reports point out that after the scream “no hay hombres” (there are no men); since they were already fighting in other fields of the battle, the women of Cochabamba went out to face the Spanish enemy, armed with sticks and clubs. This event, written down by Nataniel Aguirre in his novel “Juan de la Rosa” ( ) has been constantly reinvented by the women of different social backgrounds during all of the 20th century, generating an imaginary of a city being defended by women. Laura Gotkowitz, in an article with the title “Conmemorando a las Heroínas: Genero y ritual cívico en Bolivia a inicios del siglo XX” (2008), points out that this event not only converted into an emblem of female identity but also, in conjunction with local nationalist politicians, would model the strong image of the Cochabamba woman.

This event was not only outstanding by its appearance in school texts, but also the site where the battle of the Coronilla took place was crowned with a statue which would immortalize the happening, established furthermore as a reminder for the city. In its history, Cochabamba has been linked to its warrior women and therefore the social imaginary of its inhabitants was associated with this image. It is for this reason that if one asks the quchala inhabitants what type of sexuality they would give their city, most of them will say it is feminine, matriarchal.

This strong feminized image started to be questioned in the beginning of the 1990´s. Different political circles see the necessity of constructing a new image of the city more in its geographical center and with a masculine figure of a protecting father, which promotes integrity and the “national harmony”. To reach this, there was a necessity to reinvent symbols, redesign a sketch of the sexuality of the city of Cochabamba, which replaces the geographical axis and imagery of the Coronilla and makes a new center. Such was the political intention. Due to this, the construction of the Cristo de la Concordia was realized, built upon the top of another hill which dominates the city: San Pedro.

The necessity to initiate the construction of “urban sketches”, understood as “sites which produce recognition of collective identity” and which have a place in the minds of the inhabitants

This new emblem of the city started to be constructed in the year 1989 down to the support of the Catholic Church and thanks to the contribution of various institutions and citizens; it was finished November 12th 1994. The brothers Cesar and Walter Terrazas designed the statue made of cement. With its 40,44 meters (34,20 of altitude plus 6,24 meters from the pedestal) and its 2.200 tonnes, became the biggest sculpture of the country which can be seen from different places around the city. It is for this paternal image of a ´God-Chris that the city started to construct a new, masculine identity that opened its arms to all its inhabitants and visitors. The strengthening of this masculine symbolic image of the city would provoke, from then on, not only the complete abandonment of the old representation of the women, but also the absolute neglect of the symbolic statue of the warrior mother. With this happening, in July 2007 mechanics of the local government started to dismount the 5 ton sculpture. This way, all plaques of high importance, with the stages of the battle of the Coronilla written on them, have been robbed. In between the various offers was one to reconstruct the statue inside a museum as a work of art. This caused an immediate reply of the Cochabamba women who opposed this move, demanding the immobility of the statue and claiming the space it stands on being the only one dealing with, as according to them, the historical presence of women in regional history. The dispute was not only about the hill maintaining importance as an accepted symbolic place, but would also mean a struggle to keep the feminine sexuality of the city.

Cristo de la Concordia Statue

The struggle for the sexual feeling and sketch of the city of Cochabamba goes on until the present, right now being polarized by two extremes: on one hand, the imaginary of a city of female sexuality with its strong metaphor of the warrior-mother image of the heroines of the Coronilla and of the hill of San Sebastián, situated in the south of the city and, on the other hand, the masculine image of the Cristo de la Concordia, on the hilltop of San Pedro, conceived as the personification of a father who welcomes all his children with open arms.


Instituto de

Translated by
Joanna Filejski

Calendario MARZO 2013

>Exposición fotográfica “Banda”
Artista Steve Camargo
Martes 5 – 19 de marzo - 19:00
Visitas de 9:00 a 12:00/ 15:00 a 19:00

>Semana de la francofonía
Presentación musical de “Lise au piano” (artista francesa)
Costo de la entrada 20 Bs. / 10 Bs. para estudiantes y socios de la Alianza Francesa
18- 22 de marzo - 21:00

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