The Watch

El Fuerte de Samaipata

Samaipata, Santa Cruz Department, Bolivia
Did You Know?
Located in the eastern foothills of the Bolivian Andes, El Fuerte de Samaipata originated in the Formative Period (2000 BC–400 A D) and bears the evidence of three significant and distinct cultures.
A Closer Look

El Fuerte de Samaipata

Located in the eastern foothills of the Bolivian Andes, El Fuerte de Samaipata originated in the Formative Period (2000 B.C.–400 A.D.) and bears the evidence of three significant and distinct cultures. The pre-Inca Chané culture established El Fuerte de Samaipata as a site of religious ceremonies and decorated the sandstone surfaces with zoomorphic and geometric carvings. The ruins of an Inca city that date to the fifteenth century can be found near the site, along with the remains of Arab-Andalusian architecture from a Spanish settlement. The Spanish abandoned the site to settle in the nearby valley, currently the town of Samaipata. One of the most important archaeological sites in Bolivia, and a World Heritage Site since 1998, El Fuerte de Samaipata has become a popular tourist destination. Every June the site hosts El Lucero del Alba, an intercultural festival celebrating diversity and coexistence among the people of Boliva, including the Aymara, Quechua, Guarani, and others. The same participatory planning that enables thousands to gather for the festival is greatly needed for the long-term stewardship of the site. While pathways and other tourism infrastructure have been built in the past two decades, limited human and financial resources have been an obstacle to integrated planning and management. Physical degradation is a persistent challenge as well, in part due to changing environmental conditions and a surge in biological growth on the sandstone surface. It is hoped that Watch listing will draw attention to the needs of the site and promote positive change.

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