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Santa Cruz de la Sierra

This article is about the Bolivian city. For other cities named Santa Cruz, see Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz de La Sierra, commonly known as Santa Cruz, is the capital city of the Santa Cruz department in eastern Bolivia. With a population of 1,528,683 inhabitants , Santa Cruz is the largest city in Bolivia.


Santa Cruz de La Sierra was founded on february 26, 1561 by Nuflo de Chavez who gave the new settlement its name, which means "Holy Cross of the Hills," in honor of his beloved native city in Extremadura, Spain. Nuflo de Chavez was a Spanish captain whose biggest legacy was the expansion of colonization through virgin rainforest and savanna areas in southeastern South America. His campaign started in Buenos Aires - then Argentina's capital city - to the second biggest settlement, Asuncion - then Paraguay's capital city - and finishing with the last of the larger settlements, Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Each of the three cities helped to consolidate the colonization of several indigenous populations through what was named as Audiencia de La Plata, or a type of administrative province during the colonial stage of Latin America history. The Audiencia de La Plata consolidated what today is Argentina, Uruguay, the three Southern states of Brazil, Paraguay, and the south, southeast, and north of Bolivia, inclusively the state of Acre which is currently part of the Brazilian Federation.

Within the specific area of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, several tribes were incorporated under Spaniard control and converted to the Catholic faith, as a result of the Jesuits' influence over this region; the Guaranies, Moxenos, Chiquitanos, Guarayos, and Chiriguanos were just a few of several ethnic groups who were the ancestors of the racially mixed population of the modern Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, and Tarija departamentos (states) of Bolivia.

The original settlement of Santa Cruz de la Sierra was actually 220 km east of its modern location, only a few kilometers south of today's San Jose de Chiquitos. After conflicts with the indigenous population, the town was moved to another location closer to the banks of Rio Grande; as a result of unfriendly environmental conditions, however the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra was then moved to its present location on the banks of Pirai River in 1592. Remnants of the original settlement can be visited in Santa Cruz la Vieja ("Old Santa Cruz"), an archeological site south of San Jose de Chiquitos. It is commonly believed there were more than two relocations of the city between February 26, 1561 and the year when the last settlement was finally founded, but this is still not known for certain.

After the city was moved, it became an important staging point for Jesuit and other Christian missions to Chiquitos and Moxos for the next two centuries. Still, Santa Cruz saw little growth during that period of time. It was not until nearly a century after Bolivia gained its independence that the city started to take an important role in the nation's history. The Acre war with Brazil in the early 20th century, as well the Chaco war with Paraguay in the 1930s, forced the central government to turn its attention to the east, allocating more resources for regional governments and improving communication. The isolated town was connected by a road to Cochabamba in the 1950s, and subsequently to Brazil by railway, thus stimulating economic and demographic growth. Improvement in routes and pathways of communication, such as Viru Viru International Airport), as well as a continuous influx of immigrants, turned the city into one of the most industrialized and important trading centers of the country during the second half of the twentieth century.

Today Santa Cruz is not only the most populated city in Bolivia, but the department is also the richest, with over 30% of the national GDP. Santa Cruz is also leading a movement against the central government of Bolivia to separate the country into an autonomic political regions where each region manages its own production, taxation, and internal laws with only a small level of coordination with the national government, much like in federal countries, like the United States or the neighbouring Brazil or like the autonomous communities of Spain. This movement is in direct conflict with Evo Morales aim to keep power centralized. The other departments following this movement are Tarija, Beni, and Pando, regions have interest in separating Bolivia for economic reasons such as Bolivian gas. Bolivian gas conflict Other regions that are in the same line of the four mentioned before are Cochabamba and Chuquisaca, six of nine regions.


The department of Santa Cruz de la Sierra is located in the eastern part of the South America at 416 m above sea level. It is part of the province of Andres Ibanez and the capital of the department (state) of Santa Cruz.


The weather is semi-tropical, with an average annual temperature around 21 C (or 70 F). Although the weather is generally warm all year round, cold wind patterns, called "surazos", can blow in occasionally (especially in the winter) from the Argentine pampas making the temperature drop considerably. The months of greatest rainfall are January and February.


The city of Santa Cruz has benefited from a fast paced growing economy for the last 15 years. This has allowed for a multicultural and ethnically diverse city to develop. Despite its fast growth, the city preserves much of its traditions and culture. This is particularly reflected in its typical foods. The agricultural richness of the region allows Santa Cruz to enjoy a vast variety of flavours and ingredients. The following is a list which describes the most typical foods:

Typical Foods

Picante de Pollo (chicken in a red hot salsa served with a portion of rice and yuca

Majao or Majadito


Sopa de mani

Masaco (smashed plantain with charque(sun dried meat)Also made with yuca and charque)

Typical Drinks

Mocochinchi (this rather strange looking drink consist of sun dried peaches which are boiled with honey and clove)


Chicha (alcoholic drink made by fermenting white corn).

Typical Pastries

Cunape (yuca and cheese baked as small bread bunds)


Empanada de arroz

*Empanada de queso

*Empanada de jigote

*Empanada de carne

Bizcocho de trigo

Masaco de platano

*Masaco de yuca




Additional Notes of Interest

The city's street layout currently consists of a concentric ring model.

There are several Japanese-manufactured taxi cabs throughout the city. The steering wheels have been modified to the left side of these vehicles, thus earning them the name of "transformers" (transformed).

Mobile kiosk fast food establishments began to appear in the early 1980s decade, most notably Hamburguesas TOBY and Hamburguesas King Burger. Smaller clandestine kiosks serve soda in a small plastic bag with a straw.

The Spanish language of Bolivia's eastern lowlands is referred to as "Camba Spanish". Aside from local idioms and vernacular, the distinctive, phonological traits of Camba Spanish include the aspiration of the /s/ syllable final (similar to Caribbean Spanish) and the infrequent use of the voseo pronoun instead of tu in informal address. The use of vos is spoken with more frequency within the department of Tarija in southern Bolivia.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra is a major fashion and modeling hub in Bolivia. Crucenos pride themselves in winning the most Bolivian beauty pageant titles, including the Miss Bolivia pageant whose delegate continues her representation at the Miss Universe pageant. For this reason, Crucenos colloquially honor their city as "La Capital de la Belleza Amazonica" ("The Capital of the Amazon Beauty"). Nationally, Crucenos spend the highest amount of money per capita on personal care and beauty products.

Las Magnificas de Pablo Manzoni is a modeling troupe and agency that conducts showcases of Bolivia's top fashion models; several of them being from Santa Cruz. The showcase is heralded as one of Bolivia's most prestigious fashion and modeling events, having recently acquired international appeal and interest.

The city is home to Palmasola prison

External links

3dLatinamerica.com Many 3-dimensional high-quality images of Santa Cruz and other cities in Bolivia and Latinamerica (also viewable in standard 2-D)

Official city government site

Images of cosmopolitan Crucenos, social events, and nightlife.

Bolivian Models: Las Magnificas

Website about Santa Cruz and its surroundings

The Viru Viru International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Viru Viru): www.sabsa.aero/aeropuertointernacionalviruviru (Sabsa = Servicios de Aeropuertos Bolivianos S.A. is the operator of three airports in Bolivia).

The railway company Ferroviaria Oriental S.A.: www.ferroviariaoriental.com (Train from Santa Cruz to Quijarro (Puerto Quijarro) on the border with Brazil).


Gutsch, Jochen-Martin, "Im Labyrinth der Unordnung" Der Spiegel 5 December 2005, pp. 144-50.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Santa Cruz de la Sierra

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