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What you need to know about Cochabamba

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Cochabamba is a city in central Bolivia, in a valley with the same name, in the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cochabamba Department and is the fourth largest city in Bolivia, with a population of 630,587 according to the 2012 Bolivian census. Its name is from a compound of the Quechua words qucha, meaning “lake”, and pampa, “open plain”. Residents of the city and surrounding areas are commonly referred to as Cochalas.

It is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” and “The Garden City” because of its spring-like temperatures all year round. It is also known as “La Llajta”, which means ” town” in Quechua.

Population

Cochabamba has a population of 900,414 (2016) making it the biggest city in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Language

The population in the highland part of Cochabamba is largely Spanish speaking

Currency

boliviano (BOB)

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History

Pre-Inca and Inca

The Cochabamba valley was inhabited for thousands of years due to its fertile productive soils and mild climate. Archaeological evidence suggests that the initial inhabitants were of indigenous ethnic groups: Tiwanaku, Tupuraya, Mojocoya, Omereque, and Inca inhabited the valley at times before the Spanish arrived.

The area got its name, from Quechua Kochaj-pampa, as part of the Inca civilization. The area was conquered by Topa Inca Yupanqui (ruled 1471-1493). His son Huayna Capac turned Cochabamba into a large production enclave or state farm to serve the Incas. Possibly depopulated during the conquest, Huayna Capac imported 14,000 people, called mitimas, to work the land. The principal crop was maize which could not be grown in much of the high and cold heartland of the Inca Empire. The maize was stored in 2.400 storehouses (qollqas) in the hills overlooking the valley or transported by llama caravan to storage sites in Paria, Cusco, of other Inca administrative centers. Most of the maize was probably used to sustain the Inca army during its campaigns.

Spanish and Bolivian

The first Spanish inhabitant of the valley was Garci Ruiz de Orellana in 1542. He purchased the majority of the land from local tribal chiefs Achata and Consavana through a title registered in 1552 at the Imperial City of Potosí. The price paid was 130 pesos. His residence, known as the House of Mayorazgo, stands in the Cala Cala neighborhood.

The city, called Villa de Oropesa, was founded on 2 August 1571 by order of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, Count of Oropesa. It was to be an agricultural production centre to provide food for the mining towns of the relatively nearby Altiplano region, particularly Potosí which became one of the largest and richest cities in the world during the 17th century — funding the vast wealth that ultimately made Spain a world power. With the silver mining industry in Potosi at its height, Cochabamba thrived during its first centuries. The city entered a period of decline during the 18th century as mining began to wane.

In 1786, King Charles III of Spain renamed the city to the ‘loyal and valiant’ Villa of Cochabamba. This was done to commend the city’s pivotal role in suppressing the indigenous rebellions of 1781 in Oruro by sending armed forces to Oruro to quell the uprisings. Since the late 19th century it has again been generally successful as an agricultural centre for Bolivia.

The 1793 census shows that the city had a population of 22,305 persons. There were 12,980 mestizos, 6,368 Spaniards, 1,182 indigenous natives, 1,600 mulattos and 175 African slaves.

In 1900, the population was 21,886.

Besides a number of schools and charitable institutions, the diocese has 55 parishes, 80 churches and chapels, and 160 priests.

In 1999 and 2000, large-scale protests reversed the privatisation of the city’s water supply.

In January 2007 city dwellers clashed with mostly rural protestors, leaving four dead and over 130 injured. The first democratically elected Prefect of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa, had allied himself with the leaders of Bolivia’s Eastern Departments in a dispute with President Evo Morales over regional autonomy and other political issues. The protestors blockaded the highways, bridges, and main roads, having days earlier set fire to the departmental seat of government, trying to force the resignation of Reyes Villa. Citizens attacked the protestors, breaking the blockade and routing them, while the police did little to stop the violence. Further attempts by the protestors to reinstate the blockade and threaten the government were unsuccessful, but the underlying tensions have not been resolved.

In July 2007, a monument erected by veterans of January’s protest movement in honor of those killed and injured by government supporters was destroyed in the middle of the night, reigniting racial conflicts in the city.

In August 2008, a nationwide referendum was held. The prefect of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa, was not confirmed by the voters of the department.

Climate

Cochabamba’s famous “Eternal Spring” continues to hold sway over the hearts of true Cochalos. Neither experiencing the humid heat of Santa Cruz nor the frigid winds of La Paz, Cochabamba enjoys a semi-arid climate (Köppen: BSk). At 17° south of the Equator, tropical days are balanced by the cool of mountain nights. The characteristic of the climate is an extended dry season that runs from May until October with a wet season that generally begins in November with the principal rains ending in March.

Education

The city is the home of the University of San Simón (UMSS, for “Universidad Mayor de San Simón”), one of the largest and most prominent public universities in Bolivia. UMSS is the second best university in Bolivia according to QS World University Rankings in 2013, but measured by the webmetric scores as first in 2013. Also there are several private universities such as Universidad Católica Boliviana “San Pablo”,Escuela Militar de Ingenieria “Antonio Jose de Sucre”, Universidad Simón I. Patiño, Universidad Privada Boliviana, Universidad del Valle, Universidad de Aquino Bolivia. Cochabamba became the second recipient city of Brazilians student in Bolivia after the city of Santa Cruz due to the affordable and good living conditions.

Urban transport

The metropolitan area of Cochabamba (Vinto, Tiquipaya, Quillacollo, Colcapirhua, Cochabamba and Sacaba) has an extensive transportation system, which cover all the districts.

There are almost 70 bus and minibus lines, from A to Z, and dozens of minibuses and taxi lines trufis. Most lines have GPS system for monitoring and regulation of hour (line 1, line 16, line L, Line 3V, line 20, line 30, etc.). The service or commonly called T.RU.FI (taxi con ruta fija) has at least 60 lines; they are identified by signs on the roof of the vehicle showing the route from the initial stop until the final stop is also indicated line number to which it belongs.