El Picacho

Top choice in Tarija

The riverfront hacienda of former Bolivian president Jaime Paz Zamora was designed by Zamora himself as his own version of Gabriel García Márquez' Macondo. Zamora, equally passionate about the arts and nature, will likely be around to point things out, from the bay-leaf tree given to him by Pope Juan Pablo II to a small bottle with a bit of the first petroleum discovered in Bolivia in it. Contact Macondo de Pizza Pazza Hotel in Tarija for tour information.

Originally the property of 'Moto' Méndez in the 1800s, it was turned into a refuge for artists escaping dictatorial regimes in neighboring countries like Argentina in the 1970s. The name of the estate Zamora purchased from a friend in the late 1980s comes from the large and unique rock formation just in front on the Río Guadalquivir. Other features worth checking out are portraits of Zamora painted by Ecuadorean artist Oswaldo Guayasamín; a piece of the wing from the plane crash in 1980 that Zamora was the only one of eight passengers to survive – the result of a bomb placed on board meant to kill Zamora (he celebrates his 'second birthday' every year on June 2, the day of the crash); and a Gastón Ugalde painting made entirely from coca leaves.

Also look for the mosaics gifted by the president of Portugal; portraits of Zamora with other Latin American and European leaders, as well as President George HW Bush; roof tiles from a 400-year-old Jesuit mission; stone replicas of unique friezes copied from the exterior of the Iglesia de San Francisco in Potosí; and the burial place of Zamora's brother Nestor, who died from hunger while fleeing the army (his bones were discovered in the jungle 22 years after his death).

Visitors are allowed to wander along a nature path past a variety of trees, selected and planted by Zamora, an amateur horticulturalist. (Ironically, one of Tarija's most traffic-congested major roadways is named after him.) Also, check out the big-bellied toborochi tree on the house's grounds.

Mosaics, with inspiring poetry, are scattered around the property. Maybe most emblematic, for Zamora and chapacos' sense of independence, is a line from Tarija's most prominent poet Oscar Alfaro, turned into a popular song that describes Alfaro like a tree attached to the land.

The two-hour tour ends with a tasting of locally produced cheeses, ham and singani, all served outside on a massive stone table built from millennia-old slabs of rock (with embedded fossils) Zamora found in the countryside.

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