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May 2013
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Jesus de Machaca Church and Archaeological Sites

_MG_3012The church in Jesus de Machaca looks quite different from other churches on the altiplano.  It also looks quite out of place for such a large and sumptuously decorated church to stand in such a small town in such an apparently poor region.  With its whitewashed facade and blocky look this church is an example of late renascence architecture.  German Ambassador Philipp Schauer has done a great job describing it in his book, Tour Guide of Iglesias Rurales: La Paz y Oruro.  He also gives a great deal of information on the history of the church and the area.  Definitely worth reading during your visit.

Keeping it very short, the answer to the mystery of this church is that it was financed by a rich local indigenous leader and his family, who the Spanish left in charge of the area and who was thus able to amass a large fortune.  The fortune can be seen in the quality and size of the construction, and in the interior, which is very nicely ornamented.  Also, unlike in many of the churches, this one seems pretty much intact.  When we were there, there was even maintenance underway inside.

Note scaffolding on the right

Note scaffolding on the right

 Archaeological Sites

The area around Jesus de Machaca is populated with numerous archaeological sites of importance, some of which date back to the period prior to the rise of the Tiwanaku civilization.  I have not had a chance to explore these sites, so I can’t say how much there is to see, but you might start your explorations by taking a look at the website of the Grand Machaca Archaeological Project. (The last time I checked, this website was down, but I’ll leave the link up in case it comes back up again. In the meantime, take a look at the archived version.)  Among the sites listed are:

Ruins of Huancane in the Comunidad Qhunqhu Liquiliqui (Khonko Likiliki), just a bit north of 68 °40′, 16 °50′.  This location is shown on the 100k Instituto Geographico Militar map 3137: Puerto Guaqui, available online (see Maps in Bolivia).

Fortress of Qhunqhu (Pukara de Khonkho), directly north of the Ruins, in the proximity of Rosa Pata.

Ch’auch’a de Kulla Marka (Chaucha de Kulamarka), also close to Rosa Pata.

Iruhuito, near the Desaguadero River.

For directions to Jesus de Machaca, see Tiwanaku, Colonial Churches and Natural Arches.



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