— The City of Oruro
The city of Oruro dates to 1606, built to support the silver mines in the surrounding mountains. It has seen several periods of boom and bust over the centuries as silver mining collapsed and resurged. In the early 1900s, tin mining created a new boom and Oruro prospered. The miners became an important political force, leading a revolution in 1952. By the 1980s, the price of tin collapsed and Oruro's fortunes went down again. Today, it is just a shadow of its past glory.
Oruro is built on the altiplano, right at the edge of the mountains. Although most of the city is fairly flat, the area near the Socavón rises up quite steeply (see photo #1, at left). We stayed at the International Park Hotel, built above the bus station. It is located very near to the beginning of the Carnival parade route. We arrived a few days before Carnival started, and walked much of the parade route as workmen were setting up the bleachers that line the entire distance. They even concreted over the train tracks that run through the street; the concrete is dug up again after Carnival is over.
One day we had lunch at a restaurant that was near the Labor Department central office in Oruro. The sign in front of their office is a memorial to Che Guevara, who died in 1967. Che came to Bolivia in 1966 to start a revolution that he hoped would spread to all of South America. However, he was unable to attract any support from the local people, and his revolution was a failure. He was captured by the Bolivian army and executed. Ironically, he is revered today by many Bolivians. The quotation on the sign, "Prefiero morir de pie que vivir siempre de rodillas", means "I prefer to die on my feet than live forever on my knees."