The Princess of the Glorieta

The Castillo of the Glorieta— the heart of an Andean Fantasy Land

A Dstant Valley

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 and 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 ' 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 remained cut-off from the world almost ever since.
The wagon trailThere 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 480kms away.

  The Silver 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 4,000m. Pulacayo, a mining townPulacayo is slightly northeast from Uyuni, today best known for its huge salt pans.  In 1890 the Huanchaca 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. 


Don Francisco was married to Clotilde Urioste Velasco a young woman from Sucre, whose 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 Amazing 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.

 An Audience with the PopeHis 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 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 Palace of the GlorietaThe Castillo de la Glorieta was set among trees in extensive grounds. A gateway announced the 'Villa Francisco Argandoña'Villa Francisco Argandona  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.

An Extravaganza Wonderland

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

The Palace and Chapel
Mouldings surround the ceilings
Interior - Moorish arches 
Windows , etched with a monogram
A weekend partyA party beside the lake
The Prince and Princess of the Glorieta
The Party was over

The Prince and Princess of the Glorieta were just as much at home in Europe as they were in Sucre. Friends included Heads of State and wealthy investors. Parties at the Castillo, where the boating lake was a favorite picnic spot, lasted for days. But when Francisco died in 1910 after a short illness Clotilde decided to spend time in Paris.

Clotilde merged the Argandona bank with the Bolivian National Bank and opened factories in Sucre - one making felt hats. War between Paraguay and Bolivia broke out in 1932. The family supported the Government but Clotilde died in 1933.

The Castillo was maintained by younger members of the family for many years but in 1965 the Government of Rene Barrientos purchased the Castillo and land compulsorily to estabilish a Military School - 'Teniente Edmundo Andrade'. In 1987 the site was classed as a National Monument.

Fernando  Linale Urioste and his mother,Leonor

By 1998 the Palacio had been returned to the Urioste family. But it had been unattended for years. The Army's occupation did little to help and though the decaying fabric was almost untouched, the contents had long since been dispersed.

Modest funds have been put to urgent roof repairs and recently local historians and other enthusiasts have begun to raise money for a complete restoration.  The Castillo is open to visitors

Fernando Linale Urioste and his mother on the steps of the Castillo in 1998

Tony Morrison writes [2014 - I recall passing the Castillo on several occasions with Marion in the 1960s but photography was not permitted anywhere near the building. Then in 1998 when working on a personal project of black and white photographs of some of the most unusual places in Bolivia, I was put in touch with Fernando Linale Urioste.

Fernando took me and his 83 year old mother Carmen Leonor Urioste Urioste to the Castillo. Carmen Leonor who was born in Sucre in 1915 was a grand-daughter Clotilde's brother and could remember her childhood visits. The rooms were eerily empty as the furniture and paintings had been moved as part of the Barrientos agreement.

But Fernando had one heavy and gilded chair he managed to carry in his station wagon. His mother kindly posed in the centre of an empty room with a magnificently ornate ceiling. We talked of the parties and the folly of a garden with bowers and the boating pool - by then completely dry. The party was over....... Doña Carmen Leonor Urioste Urioste died in Sucre in 2002.

Nonesuch Expeditions would like to thank The Municipality of Sucre, The Rector and Council of the University, San Francisco Xavier and Lic. Fernando Linale Urioste 


El Principado de 'La Glorieta' Coronel DEM Mario Quiroga Morales - Sucre 1997

In Memoriam Clotilde v de Argandona , Princesa de la Glorieta, Sucre 1935


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