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This is the a story from a distant valley in the Bolivian Andes mountains. Paris and London were 'home' to the social nobility who lived there. But it is hard to imagine the isolation of the place at the turn of the 19th century. Back in those days most of the world looked to Bolivia for her wealth. The country had a long mining history traced to long before the Inkas. Few people in Europe knew of the way the Bolivians led their lives. Few really cared. As long as silver gold and tin flowed from the rich veins of the mountains, Bolivia 'was promised the earth'.

Silver In those days the capital of the country was Sucre, a city founded by Spaniards in 1540 under the name of Villa de La Plata - or the 'Town of The Silver'.

Rebellion Sucre is still the capital although the seat of government moved to La Paz in 1899 after a series of rebellions. Sucre has has remained cut-off from the world almost ever since.

There was a brief period when a rail connection linked it to La Paz but that has gone. In the days when this story began the only way to travel was by horse or for short distances by carriage. Mules hauled wagons carrying ore and supplies between the mines, Sucre, and the nearest port on the Pacific coast 300 miles(480kms)away , then only recently lost to neigbouring Chile.

The Mine Perhaps the most famous of the 19th century mines was at Huanchaca near Pulacayo, a cold even more remote township set at an altitude of over 13,100ft (4,000m). Pulacayo is slightly northeast from Uyuni, today best known for its huge salt pans. In 1890 the Huancahaca mine was owned by a group known as the 'Compañia Huanchaca de Bolivia' The Huanchaca mine was rich - very rich and it made a lot of money. Also it attracted substantial investment from Europe, largely from Great Britain and France. The major shareholders included the President, a number of Chileans and some wealthy Sucre luminaries including Don Francisco Argandoña who owned a private bank.

francisco argandoña "prince of la glorieta"

Clotilde Urioste Velasco "princess of la glorieta"

with the pope leon XIII, who named them prince and princess

Don Francisco was married to a young woman from Sucre, Clotilde Urioste Velasco. Her family had arrived from Spain at the beginning of the 19th century. Together they were a central part of Sucre society, and devoted some of their wealth to the foundation of a religious house for the 'Daughters of Santa Ana'. It became known as the 'Santa Clotilde Home' . By the 1890s everything was rolling along well for the Francisco and Clotilde. Francisco had been awarded several 'diplomatic' titles including 'Minister Plenipotentiary in Germany', - "remember just how far away that was - at least a week to the port and six or seven weeks more to Europe by boat via Cape Horn.The Panama canal didn't exist."

More titles Sometime between 1895 and 1899 Francisco was accorded the further title of 'Special Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary in France'. Francisco and Clotilde had a Parisian home near the Arc de Triomphe in Avenida Victor Hugo. by 1898 Francisco and Clotilde were enjoying the fruits of their diplomatic excursion in Europe. They were en route to Russia via the Vatican when they called on the Pope. His Holiness Pope Leon XlIl bestowed on the pair another title , 'Princes of the Glorieta'. They continued to St Petersburg where they were entertained by the Russian Court of the day. The list of engagements, social meetings and honours continued or so the stories were told. Bolivia, Russia and the Vatican were months of travel apart.

Back in Sucre Work had been started on a country palace in 1893. Francisco Argandona employed an Argentinian/ Italian architect to design and carry through the construction of a sumptuous house about 3 miles (5ms) from the centre of the capital. No expense was spared and the palace or Castle 'Castillo' as it was known was not only the pride of the family but admired by all the local social nobility.

By 1897 the work was complete. The Castillo de la Glorieta was set among trees in extensive grounds. A gateway announced the 'Villa Francisco Argandoña' and a fine path led beside the river, past stables, a clock tower and minaret, to gardens, an artificial lake 'the lover's lake' a miniature railway, fountains, a grotto and the Glorieta, a flower clad bower, the 'Temple to Venus' was set on a low hill.

The entire scene was a fairytale folly. Much of the design was Moorish, parts were Italian. Mouldings, fine mirrors, furniture and statuary were imported from Europe. Alice, Charles Dodgson's famous young heroine, could have found the same scene in Wonderland

links......... / english / spanish
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