Four centuries of the mansion of Hotel Villa Antigua
After a one-year investigation, a book was recently published on the history of the house where Hotel Villa Antigua operates. The search in the historical archives of the National Archives and Library of Bolivia (ABNB) and the Historical Documentary Bibliographic Center of the University of San Francisco Xavier mainly, as well as in the Casa de la Libertad, managed to know the names of the inhabitants and owners during the four centuries. The findings are captured in the book (in Spanish) ‘Paseo histórico por Sucre desde la casa del Hotel Villa Antigua’ (Historic walk through Sucre from the house of the Hotel Villa Antigua). Its author and researcher is Dick Commandeur, who together with his wife María Teresa Molina are the entrepreneurs and current owners of the hotel.
The book finds its main historical foundation in public deeds, which have captured very personal narrations of the owners and their neighbors who lived in the houses in the same block since the beginning of the colony. The stories about the house are contextualized with illustrative details of Sucre’s past, the city that in the colonial times was called La Plata, from documents and history books, as well as newspapers from different eras.
The history begins more than 400 years ago: Leonarda de la Cuba, wife of Gaspar Saldaña who was born in Spain, was the owner of the plot late sixteenth century. Her son-in-law Francisco Ondegardo, nephew of the well-known colonial authority Licenciado Polo de Ondegardo, lived in the house in 1596. This same Francisco was present in 1628 when María Zeballos bought the plot in front to built the Monastery and Church of Santa Clara, the main reference for the house since then.
The house is inherited to his daughter Maria and later to his grandson Gaspar Jacinto de Loayza y Valdés. The last one lives in 1689 in Arica, port city to the Pacific Ocean, when he sells it to the Monastery of Santa Clara. The nuns of Santa Clara decided to sell it 11 years later to Mateo del Muro, because, as they say, they had no means to maintain it. The book tells the democratic process of decision-taking used by the nuns, which is extended to three rounds of reflection, expressed in three treaties, until reaching a final decision between the Abbess and the “Mothers of Consultation and Definition”.
When in 1718 Mateo gives a dowry for his daughter Francisca, described in detail by his son-in-law Fernando Mompo de Sayas and which includes part of the house, it is shown that at that moment the building already had two floors, that is, it was a house of importance.
Via Juan de Larrazábal, merchant among others in slaves, Josepha de Hortelano and the priest José Ignacio López Nieto, the house arrives in 1782 at the hands of María Tardío, owner of a mining company in Porco in Potosí and widow of Miguel de Heredia, deceased by indigenous uprisings a few years before. She marries again with Manuel Navarro, lawyer in the city of La Plata, who appears as owner in a census of around 1800, published a century later in commemoration of the Heroes of the Independence in an article in the Municipal Gazette that shows the owners of the entire center from the city.
It was time of the War of Independence, causing financial problems to more than one of the owners in the block and surely the rest of La Plata and Bolivia. María was forced to auction off her house, which was bought by the creditor María Andrés Sanz, also from the mining sector of Potosí. She and then her aunt, heir Bríjida Martínez y Mina, besides the house of Villa Antigua, also owned the Casa Grande or Gran Poder, where today the Charcas Museum is located.
The next owner is Juan Fernández de Córdova, son of the last Presidential Adviser of the Royal Audience Lorenzo Fernández de Córdova portrayed by Juan Misael Saracho, who describes his difficulties around the final years of Spanish power and first republican years of Bolivia. Via his brother-in-law Manuel Nestares, the house passes to the brother-in-law of the latter, Andrés Álvarez, who with his daughter Dolores manages in the building the private school Nuestra Señora de Lourdes, the same school that functioned until 1910.
In that year it is bought by Matilde Barrientos, a young widow of one of the most important painters of the 19th century in Bolivia, Antonio Villavicencio. All the data indicates that Matilde made the important investment to convert the house into the neoclassical-republican style, very fashionable in those years. Her relationship with Colonel Miguel Castro Pinto, Hero of the Pacific War between Chile and Bolivia/Perú, leaves her three children, among whom the next owner of the house, Miguel Castro Pinto. This son Miguel was Prefect of the department of Chuquisaca, from which Sucre is the capital, in the forties of last century. From this position, he became also the first president of the Committee of Relief and Restoration after the earthquake of 1948. In the last years before Bolivian´s most significant Revolution of 1952, he is president of the Supreme Court, with which ends his political life.
Passing by his son Luis, in 1969 the house is bought by Eustaquio Bilbao Rioja, National Attorney General during most of the sixties. Via his heirs it is bought by the current owners, who a century later make another major investment to convert the house into hotel.
In addition to this row of owners of the house, it was possible to collect the names of the neighbors and also details of their lives. Regarding the context of the city, the book contains information about demographic growth – stagnation and explosion -, architectural changes, the drinkwater issue, the appearance of the electricity and telephony, the denomination of the streets, among others, all with picturesque details.
The book gives special attention to some outstanding themes that emerged from the owners’ biographies, among others the foundation of Santa Clara, the death in poverty of a priest in the seventeenth century, slavery and its slow abolition, private education and the earthquake of 1948.
The book can be purchased in Sucre at the reception of Hotel Villa Antigua and in some of the best bookstores, and digitally by internet on Amazon.com.