Researchers interested in investigating the history and anthropology of Bolivia’s eastern region will find two documentation centers in Santa Cruz de la Sierra: the Museo de Historia y Archivo Histórico of Universidad Autónoma Gabriel René Moreno (the History Museum and Archives of the Gabriel René Moreno University and the Archivo Histórico del Arzobispado (Historic Archives of the Archbishopric). Both centers contain historic, civil and ecclesiastical documents dating from the 17th century.
The city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the oldest city in this region of Bolivia, dates back to 1561. The city—considered the capital of the eastern region—was twice moved from its original location, but has been in its current place since 1622. During the colonial era, the Governorship of Santa Cruz de la Sierra included the current departments of Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando; this area, in turn, was the territory of its Bishopric. After Bolivia’s creation in 1825, the Department of Santa Cruz was divided: the Department of Beni was created in 1842 and the Department of Pando in 1938.
The documents in both historic archives of the city are from the Colonial and Republican eras. The Archives of the Archbishopric are mainly ecclesiastical, containing all the information produced by the Bishopric. These archives contain a wealth of information about the region’s diverse ethnic groups because the Church was dedicated to the evangelization of the natives of the lowlands.
The Museum of History and Historic Archives contain an abundance of civil documents. The Historic Archives concentrate on two old archives: the university’s historic archive with a small collection known as Fondo Melgar i Montaño, that brings together colonial documents and information from the independence era and Fondo Prefectural, which focuses on documents from the Department of Santa Cruz in the first Republican century. Since 2009, another archive known as the Archivo Histórico Departmental Hermanos Vasquez Machicado (Departmental Historic Archive of the Vásquez Machicado Brothers) is now at the Museum of History. The documentary collections of this archive belong to the Municipal Government and the Department Courts.
These documentary collections are being catalogued; there were only indexes for some of them. The Prefectural Collection was catalogued thanks to the support of the Program for Latin American Libraries and Archives (PLALA) through the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies of Harvard University. In 2006, the Museum of History and the Historic Archive requested support to hire a senior researcher and two young sociologists to prepare the catalogue of the documentary collection that at the time was organized by year in folders. Since November 2006 and for a period of one year, the researcher trained the young sociologists in cataloguing, as the career of library science is not available in Santa Cruz. Together they catalogued 72,080 pages grouped in 4,598 documents related to the period from 1825 to 1910.
The effort was very fruitful: they organized the information in 11 sections and 88 series, in 145 boxes of documents. Two new professionals were also trained in archiving. Likewise, progress has been made with other collections. The catalogues are available printed and online to researchers who are dedicated to the history and anthropology of the lowlands of Bolivia during the 19th century.
Paula Peña Hasbún is the director of the Museo de Historia y Archivo Histórico de Santa Cruz. Contact: Museo_ email@example.com.
Paula Peña Hasbún es la directora del Museo de Historia y Archivo Histórico de Santa Cruz.