June 2014

“La Ladera”

Tarata was one of the most important towns of the department of Cochabamba in the nineteenth century. It became the capital of the department in 1866 by the Bolivian president, General Mariano Melgarejo, a native from Tarata who was hated by everyone except the people of Tarata and his mistress, Juana Sánchez (nicknamed “la Juanacha”), a popular woman among the people of La Paz. She was also called the general’s “Holofernes.”

Walter Sánchez
Instituto de Investigaciones

Path within “La Ladera” Mansion. Seated: Juana Terrazas and unknown. Behind: Young women who were taught at Juana Terrazas’s boarding school. Photograph by: Anonymous; end of the nineteenth century.
Photo: Courtesy of Walter Sánchez

Up until the nineteenth century, Tarata was a thriving town. In 1891 Benjamin Rivero, the sub- prefect of Tarata, stated the economic stance of the town by saying that (1) farming was “at the same level as the rest of the department of Cochabamba, consisting mainly of maize, wheat, barley, and some potato and fodder.” These were mainly cultivated in the ranches that bordered the town (2), where most of the farming took place, as well as producing “wool textile used for clothing by the common people as well as for upholstering, which were taken to the southern areas for the same use, creating considerable business,” since at the time hats made from vicuña and the extraction of sulfuric acid for factories were declining. (3) “Pottery and ceramics, which were scarce among the people, were being manufactured and were considered as the cheapest to make.” Finally, (4) the business that most people in the countryside dedicated to was the extraction of agricultural products such as maize and wheat flour and mucko.” This report emphasizes that the majority of these products “which are mentioned, and even vegetables… were consumed greatly in Oruro as well as the mining towns of Potosí.”

One part of the population was also dedicated to international trade, mainly in the towns of Peru, where many products were taken and where “many foreign items such as ceramic, crystal, furniture, preserves, spices and alcohol were brought back.”

Therefore, Tarata was a residential center for property owners, artisans and powerful businessmen; a manufacturing center for some agricultural products (wheat and maize flour, mak’u, textiles, etc.); an administrative and political center, monopolized by lawyers, military and priests; and a meeting point for various commercial routes between the West, the mines, the altiplano and southern Peru. All of these components made Tarata a strong and stratified society socially, economically and culturally. The local elite, even though they maintained close links with the indigenous and mixed cultures, shared a lot of the same customs (the use of Quechua, friendships, drinking chicha, etc.), although they had their own cultural system that linked them to the elite of other parts of Bolivia and even those abroad (in Europe) where many travelled. Private parties were one way the elite demonstrated their own social status, through music or dance, that were held out of sight of the rest of society with whom they needed to maintain distance.

One of the places where these parties took place to gather the young elite from Tarata and the Valle Alto, and that is remembered by many of the people of the town, was located in the “La Ladera” neighborhood, along the west side of the River Calicanto, considered the outskirts of town. It was part of the “Prado de San Luís” Ranch and belonged to brother and sister Cesar and Juana Terrazas, descendants of a long line of a traditional family from Tarata. Among their family members were: Father Mathías Terrazas (whose idolatrous library in Sucre generated many of the revolutionary ideas before the independence); Pedro Terrazas (Signatory in 1825 of the Declaration of Independance); writer Mariano Ricardo Terrazas (a liberal who was sought after by Mariano Melgarejo and who wrote the novel El sitio de París); and lawyers Bonifacio and Melchor Terrazas (the later having been chancellor of the University of San Simón).

Small lake within the gounds of “La Ladera” Mansion.
Photo: Courtesy of Walter Sánchez

According to oral tradition, the parties held in the mansion were organized by Juana Terrazas. Alberto Iriarte Fiorilo, in his book Tarata: Luz y Sombra (written in the province [“pueblo adentro” as writer Gaby Vallejo Canedo describes it]), describes through his own memories, with beautiful baroque prose without altering the academic writing, that the salons of this mansion “were witnesses to great social gatherings and balls where the people of high society, dressed in fancy clothing, came from the cities in luxurious horse drawn carriages to participate in these social events. The men would dress in suits and women in long dark dresses with fans to fan themselves after dancing the famous “Cuadrilla de Lanceros,” a dance they did with amazing grace and precision before Juana Terrazas, owner of the mansion and the property that stretched north for a mile or two […] Apart from its grand salons, the mansion had everything a home needed: bedrooms, a dining room, a ballroom, gardens, servants and even a small lake where couples would row in small boats.”

These socio-cultural gatherings were ways the elite demonstrated their status (socially, politically, economically and imaginary) locally and within the region. During these gatherings, many cultural elements were considered important. Hence the participation of a variety of freethinkers, musicians, lawyers, writers, poets, politicians and priests; all of whom made Tarata what was then known as ¨The Athens of the Valley¨ of Cochabamba.

Nowadays, only ruins are left of this old mansion which will soon disappear. These ruins, more than just evidence, have become a metaphor of what has happened to the town of Tarata; it is a town that never wanted to be maintained, by itself or by others.

Text: Translated by: Daniela Viljoen

Calendario JUNIO 2014

Todos subtitulados en español

2 de Junio - 19h
“¡Todos en Larzac! “

9 de Junio - 19h
“La sal de este mar”

16 de Junio - 19h
“Una chica cortada en dos”

23 de Junio - 19h
“Un mundo sin mujeres”
23 de Junio - 19h
“Du vent dans mes mollets”

2 al 6 de Junio
La Alianza Francesa acoge funciones y talleres
del festival Cuento Contigo del Teatro Hecho a

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