Tag: Blue Jesus

Museo Nacional de Arte

Museo Nacional de Arte

La Paz, Bolivia – April 27, 2019

I wanted to see the Museo Nacional de Arte since I arrived in La Paz some eight months ago.  Today is that day.  Little did I know on this day I would encounter a backward clock, beautiful 17th Century art, and a crucified, blue Jesus.

On this beautiful, mostly sunny day, I left home shortly after 09:00.  I hailed a taxi to take me to the Irpavi station for the green line of the Teleférico.  I rode the green line to the end.  There I switched to the Linea Celeste (light blue) line and rode it to the end, near Plaza Camacho.  I thought about taking a taxi to Plaza Murillo, my final destination.  Instead, I opted to walk roughly 835 meters (just over one-half mile).

The façade of a government building on Avenida Camacho.
Detail of the coat of arms of Bolivia.

The walk was easy until I turned right to go up Calle Socabaya.  The steep street required a couple of rest stops along the way.  Regardless, I finally made it to Plaza Murillo.

At the southwest corner of Calle Socabaya and Called Comercio sits the building housing the National Art Museum.  Across the street, on the southeast corner, is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of La Paz.  That was my first stop.

Like many cathedrals, it is a large, imposing, stone structure, started in 1835.  The inauguration of the cathedral did not happen until 1925.  Inside, it is impressive, but not overstated.  Photography inside is strictly forbidden.  Unknowingly, I entered during mass.  Because of that, I did not explore much of the cathedral.  The most interesting fact I discovered is that the main entrance is 12 meters (39 feet) higher than the base of the cathedral at the rear on Calle Potosí.  That provides some idea of the steepness of Calle Socabaya.

The Museo Nacional de Arte is in a building dating from 1775, at the corner of Socabaya and Calle Comercio.
The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace on the south side of Plaza Murillo.
The bas relief above the main entrance to the basilica.
The door to the right of the main door.
The door to the left of the main door.

Exiting the cathedral, I crossed the street to Plaza Murillo.  As I strode up the stairs to the main level of the plaza, I caught my first glimpse of the dozens and dozens of pigeons.  Feeding the pigeons was a woman surrounded by the birds.  At the time, I did not realize the prevalence of this activity.  It reminded me of Leslie, Hillary, and Tyler feeding the pigeons when we toured Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

A woman feeding the pigeons at Plaza Murillo.
The towering statue in the center of Plaza Murillo.

Continuing through the plaza, one cannot miss the large clock above the entrance to the National Congress of Bolivia.  What immediately captures the imagination is that the clock is backward!  The numbers from 1 – 12 appear just the opposite of other clocks.  The hands of the clock turn to the left, not clockwise.  I did not have enough brainpower to be able to read the time.  I did not seem to correspond in any way to my watch.

According to a story by the BBC, the Bolivian Foreign Minister said, “…the change had been made to get Bolivians to treasure their heritage and show them that they could question established norms and think creatively.”  As noted above, I must have left my creative gene at home…

The building housing the National Congress of Bolivia (note the backward clock).
Detail of the flags and clock at the National Congress of Bolivia.

The National Congress building is on the east side of the plaza.  From my vantage point, I looked back to the south.  I could see the towering government building, Casa Grande del Pueblo.  Immediately in front of the tower is the Palacio de Gobierno.  I understand that is one of the homes of the Bolivian President, Juan Evo Morales Ayma.  The guards at the palace are hard to miss since they are in uniforms reminiscent of the 19th century.

The building in the foreground is the Palacio de Gobierno. One can barely see the red uniformed guards at the front. The tall building in the background is a government building known as Casa Grande del Pueblo.
The red uniformed guards in front of the Palacio de Gobierno.
The guards at the main entry.

Continuing through the plaza, I found pigeons everywhere.  Near the central statue, a woman sat on a bench feeding the birds while her companion captured the moment on his cellphone.  She ended up with pigeons on her head and neck.  I spotted a seat in the shade and sat down.  From that vantage point, I watched the world go by while taking photographs periodically.

Several street vendors had small stalls throughout the plaza, selling ice cream, cups of jello, snacks, drinks, and, oh yes, bird feed.  At one of the bird feed stations, I saw a sign asking people to please place the small plastic bags in the trash after they finished feeding the birds.

In the center, above the word “gloria,” is the towering statue in the center of the Plaza Murillo.
A closer view of the statue.
A woman posing for her companion while she feeds the pigeons in Plaza Murillo.
View across the plaza toward the basilica.
The woman ended up with a pigeon on her head and one on her neck.
Her companion capturing the moment.
Detail of an emblem on the Casa Grande del Pueblo.
Detail of an emblem on the Casa Grande del Pueblo.
Detail of an emblem on the Casa Grande del Pueblo.
A couple of men on a bench talking in the plaza.
One of the vendors at the plaza. She sold a cup with what seemed to be jello and whipped cream.
Another woman falls victim to a pigeon on the head.
An ice cream vendor wheels his cart by a couple feeding pigeons.
The woman below the sculpture was one of several people selling bird feed.
The flags and coat of arms at the Palacio de Gobierno.
Detail of the coat of arms.
A woman at the plaza selling drinks and snacks.
The stands from which the jello concoctions emanate.
A partial view of the Bolivian flag on the left. On the right is a variant flag of Bolivia, known as the Whipala.

When I got up from my bench, I walked across the street to the art museum.  Created in 1960, the museum opened to the public in 1961.  Don Francisco Tadeo Diaz de Medina y Vidangos commissioned the large house, completed in 1775.  Bolivia declared the house a national monument in 1930.

Entering the museum cost me Bs5 (US$0.72).  I expected to see a sign indicating no photography in the museum.  I was right, but disappointed.  Outside the museum, in the courtyard, I did capture a couple of images.  Regardless, the museum was worth every penny of the entry fee.  Some of my favorite paintings follow.

Master of Calamarca, Archangel with Gun, Asiel Timor Dei, before 1728, oil on canvas and gilding, 160 x 110 cm (Museo Nacional de Arte, La Paz, Bolivia)

Asiel Timor Dei circa 17th century.  This image is from Khan Academy.

File: Gaspar Miguel de Berrío - Coronation of the Virgin.jpg

The Coronation of the Virgin by Gaspar Miguel de Berrío circa 18th century.  This image is from Wikipedia.

Archivo:Anónimo - La Virgen del Cerro, 1720.jpg

The Virgin of the Hill, artist unknown, 1720.  This image is from Wikipedia.

I like the painting of St. John the Evangelist by Melchor Pérez de Holguín.  I could not find an image of the painting to share; however, I discovered Holguín’s portrait is on the Bs50 note!

This image is from The Banknote Museum.

The Triumph of Nature (1928), by Cecilio Guzmán de Rojas.  This image is from Biografías y Vidas.

The courtyard of the art museum, complete with small rock sculptures.
The water fountain in the courtyard of the art museum.

When I left the art museum, since I was so close, I decided to go to the museum at the San Francisco Basilica.  To begin that journey, I walked along Calle Comercio.  That is a pedestrian thoroughfare.  The center is full of vendors selling just about everything one can imagine.  I did not stop to buy anything.  However, I did see a crew installing a pole and working on the dozens of overhead cables.  I have no clue how they know which is which.  I guess that is why they have not asked me to work with them.

To get to the San Francisco Plaza required a walk down Calle Genaro Sanjinés.  It was definitely “down!”  Just another of the many steep streets in La Paz.  A block or so down the road I glimpsed an inner courtyard through a door, the Restaurante Pruebame.  I stopped in for a cup of coffee and some French fries.  I think that is a new diet fad…

A man selling books on Calle Comercio. The entry to the art museum is behind him.
The entrance to the museum.
Looking down Socabaya.
On Calle Comercio looking toward the basilica and Plaza Murillo.
Workers on Calle Comercio preparing to set a pole.
Another worker seemingly trapped in a web of cables.
The courtyard of Restaurante Pruebame.
Stopped for a coffee.
A man walking past the entrance to the restaurant. Yes, many streets in La Paz are quite steep!

Leaving the restaurant, I continued down.  As I was walking, I remembered the plaza is on a major six-lane road.  I imagined a difficult crossing.  Then I remembered seeing a pedestrian bridge a little to the north.  I veered onto Calle Potosí toward Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz.  Walking beside that busy avenue, I happened to look to my right.  I saw a metallic sculpture of a bull.  I entered the virtually deserted plaza and found several sculptures.  There was no one around, nor were there any signs to indicate who made the sculptures.  Some of them were amazing.

Looking down Calle Genaro Sanjines.
The San Francisco Basilica.
A beautiful building on Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz. I ended my tour on top of that building, enjoying a beer.
Artwork in a rather deserted plaza.
A sculpture of a bull.
Numerous wooden sculptures in the plaza.
The other side of the bull.
Detail of the bull and the graffiti.

There were many typical sights of La Paz as I walked toward and onto the pedestrian bridge.  The views included vendor booths for DVDs and news/magazines, signs celebrating La Paz, and food booths.  At the end of the bridge is an entry to Mercado Lanza.  I entered, heading toward the San Francisco Plaza side.  The market is a collection of small vendor stands under an enormous roof.

The other side of the market is above Calle Figueroa.  That street had more vendor stands.  Some vendors staked out a spot on the sidewalk; such as the figurine vendor, and the women selling juice and fruit.  From the top of the stairs, I could see a group of people crowded around one man.  Obviously a salesman, he demonstrated a product for drinking.  Exactly what the product was, I am not sure.

A family shopping for DVDs.
A news and magazine stand near the E. Valle Pedestrian Bridge.
The beginning incline of the pedestrian bridge.
Calle Comercio as seen from the bridge.
The marvelous La Paz sign on Avenida Pérez Velasco. The pedestrian bridge spans the avenue.
The view from the bridge toward the San Francisco Basilica.
A children’s merry-go-round at the base of the bridge.
Some highly decorated buildings at the base of the bridge.
Looking back toward the other side of the bridge, one sees a likeness of the mountain peak Illimani.
Patrons queuing at a refreshment stand.
Traffic and vendors on Calle Figueroa.
The view northwest on Calle Figueroa.
A man selling dolls and other trinkets on Calle Figueroa.
Some of the many vendor stalls.
A group of people watching a demonstration of a product.
A woman selling juice on Calle Figueroa.
Looking down on a woman selling fruit.
The man wearing the DC ball cap wowed the crowd with his product.
Walking toward Plaza San Francisco.
A man selling balloons at the plaza.
Plaza San Francisco.

Now at San Francisco Plaza, I entered the museum, paid my Bs10 (US$1.45) entry fee, and walked up a flight of stairs to begin the tour.  At the top of the stairs is a covered walkway leading to what used to be the monastery.  A museum guide approached me as I stood reading signs about the church and monastery.  He struck up a conversation, in English, and began guiding me through the site.

I learned the basilica began construction in 1548.  Oddly enough, the structure collapsed in 1610 due to heavy snowfall.  The rebuilt structure opened in 1772.  At many locations along our route, the guide advised me not to take photographs.  That admonition applied to a salon area complete with 16th-century frescos on the wall; the winery, and a hall containing ten or twelve paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries.  The photo ban did not apply to the room housing the crucified, blue Jesus.  According to the guide, the oddly colored Jesus has something to do with a Franciscan belief; although, I did not precisely understand what he said.  Adjacent to that room were numerous stone relics from the collapsed structure.

The courtyard of the monastery has a wishing fountain, a stone cross, and numerous plants.  Many of the plants have medicinal qualities.  One tree, in particular, caught my interest, the queñua.  The bark of the tree is paper-thin and peels away easily.  Near the tree, I saw a very furry black cat.  Disinterested in my presence, the cat did not attempt to interact with either of us.

The water fountain in the courtyard of San Francisco.
Looking up toward the bell tower.
The stone cross in the courtyard.
The cat in the courtyard.
Another view of the courtyard.
A queñua tree in the courtyard.
Detail of the bark of the queñua tree.
The blue crucified Jesus.
One of the rooms housed old columns and carved stones from the complex.

The guide walked me back toward the entry stairs and allowed photographs of another courtyard.  Then the guide opened an old wooden door at the top of the stairs that led into an upper level of the basilica.  From this level, the lower level of the basilica unfolded below.  Since there was no mass, I asked about taking photographs.  “Absolutely not,” was the answer.  Talking with the guide is when I learned photos are forbidden.  That puts a different light on my previous visit to the basilica when a Bolivian National Police officer got mad at me (A Great Day for the Dead).

Another courtyard in the basilica grounds.

The first space had on display old dalmatics, chalices, patens, and a massive and ornate monstrance.  The next stop was the choir, with two levels of carved wood seats surrounding a central music stand.  On the music stand was an enormous original music book.  The books are large to allow the choir to see the music from any of the seats.

Before entering the basilica, the guide mentioned that every stone bears the mark of the mason that originally quarried the rock.  After I heard that, I saw the initials in nearly every stone at which I looked.  At the other side of the choir, he led me to the base of some narrow steps made of stone.  These rose up to the roof of the basilica.  The unevenness of the treads and risers made the climb a little tricky.  The struggle was not only real; but, well worth the effort.  Our vantage point allowed a view of the roof and bell tower that not everyone gets to enjoy.  While on the roof, I found a significant bit of information…the building across the way had a rooftop seating area.  More about that shortly.

The bell tower of San Francisco as seen from the roof of the basilica.
Looking down on Plaza San Francisco and the traffic on Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz.
From the roof of the basilica, I spotted the rooftop seating of Ichuri. It must have been a sign from above.
Looking along the spine of the basilica roof. The dome is the cupola above the altar.
One of the bells.
View through the bell tower.
The cross on top of the cupola.
There are seven of these structures on the roof. Each allows a little light inside the basilica during the day.

Everything that goes up must come down.  That seemed to apply to us as well.  The guide led me to another set of stairs to get us down from the roof.  Just before our descent, I gave him a Bs10 tip.  He appreciated the tip.  Maybe I should have waited until our safe passage.

The stairs were just as uneven and steep as the first set.  A handrail would have been a wonderful luxury; but alas, that was not to be.  The narrow passage meant each of my shoulders touched the wall all the way down.  That helped my balance.  At the base of the stairs, I stopped to look back to the sky.  One of the steps clearly showed the mark of the maker.  Back on the solid level of the basilica I made the sign of the cross in thanks…not actually, but I probably should have.

The guide showed me that the windows on either side of the choir are not glass, but agate.  Several bullet holes in the agate remind visitors of the civil war.

I stopped to look back to the roof after coming down these ancient stairs. Note the “X” carved in the lower step.  A sign of the maker.
In the courtyard looking toward the bell tower.
The covered walkway to the side of the courtyard.

Departing the museum, I entered one of the tourist shops.  Masks to hang on the wall are a big thing in Bolivia.  I am not sure why, but I “needed” one.  I settled on a small bird mask.

The painted wood pájaro (bird) head I bought near the basilica.

When I left the shop, I stopped to look at the carving on the façade of the basilica.  One of the images I spotted was that of the Pachamama (Mother Earth) that demonstrates the influence of the indigenous peoples on the construction of the basilica.

A panorama of the basilica façade.
A wider view of the Pachamama carving.
The figure of Pachamama on the façade of the basilica.

With the mask in tow, I made my way to the building on which I saw the rooftop seating area.  I entered the building and saw a set of stairs.  Winding my way to the top, it surprised me to not see a door for the restaurant.  Each level of this building had a short hallway with offices/shops on either side, the same as the upper floor.  Walking to the other end of the hall, I found an elevator to take one to the final level.  I opted instead to use the stairs that wrapped around the elevator shaft.  Sure enough, the door to the restaurant, Ichuri, was at the top of the stairs.

In the plaza, my sights firmly fixed on the rooftop restaurant…
The view to the southwest along Calle Sagarnaga beside the basilica.
The staircase to reach the Ichuri Restaurant.

I found a table under a sunshade on the basilica side of the rooftop.  I sat down to wait for my Paceña beer.  I noticed some male models, a photographer’s assistant, and a photographer taking photographs on the roof.  With the number of clothing changes, I assume the shoot was for a fashion magazine or advertisement.  The relaxing, outdoor environment; the beer; and the sights added to my enjoyment of the moment.

After my leisurely beer, I walked back to the Teleférico for my ride home.

View to the north from Ichuri Restaurant. The Samsung sign reads, “See the bigger picture.”
Models and photographers on the roof of the basilica.
The crest above the basilica’s main entry.
View to the north along Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz.
Public transportation queued up on Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz.
Pedestrians walking along Avenida Mariscal Santa Cruz.
Some of the numerous vendor stalls along nearly any busy road.
Some dogs converging in front of the post office.
Traffic by the median of Avenida 16 de Julio.
A cholita walking along Avenida 16 de Julio.
A very, very red building.
A woman walking along the street with several flower arrangements.
The façade of the Brosso Restaurant.
The water fountain in front of the Brosso Restaurant.
Detail of the water fountain in front of the Brosso Restaurant.