An Act of Kindness (day 5): Offering Cold Drinking Water

The only Jesuit Mission built of stone: San José de los Chiquitos

This is day 5 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger“. We are in San José de los Chiquitos, one of the former Jesuit missions in eastern Bolivia.

Outside it is bloody, bloody hot with temperatures high in the thirties and everything dripping with humidity. We feel like we’re slowly being cooked in a pressure cooker. We’re thirsty. The car with our bottles of drinking water is on the other side of the plaza but having to walk over there feels as exhausting as having to run a marathon. We’d rather stay in the former Jesuit church, pleasantly cool thanks to its thick walls.

In 1767 the pope expelled the Jesuits from all South American territories. Bolivia’s indigenous group of Chiquitanos lived with the Jesuits in about a dozen missions and continued to live here after the expulsion. However, the missions were raided, (partly) destroyed and over the years used for other purposes.

Today the missions have all been beautifully restored. Ten have become a National Monument and six obtained a UNESCO World Heritage Status. The first we visit is San José de los Chiquitos, which has a museum in the quarters that were once part of the living area of the mission. It is a joy to walk here and admire the architecture, feel the ambiance of peace and tranquility, and read an abundance of information on the site.

Throughout the years the walls were plastered and repainted. During the restoration they recovered six layers.

Simultaneously, the mission feels like a place of refuge, with thick walls to keep out a paralyzing heat. But we áre thirsty and need to drink something. We ask the caretaker if the tap water is safe to drink, which he confirms.

“But wait, let me get you some cold water,” he offers. “Just a minute.”

That minute takes a bit longer than that as the fridge is in another office, that office is locked, the key is in somebody else’s possession and that person is somewhere in these buildings.

“You must be used to this heat,” we comment as he, at last, returns with a bottle of fabulously cold water in his hand which he offers us with a smile, with two plastic cups as well.
“Yes I am, and in fact, it isn’t that hot yet. Temperatures will continue to rise into their forties,” he comments.

We guzzle half the bottle. We generally don’t care for refrigerated drinks but boy, does this taste good!  We feel refreshed and say goodbye. There are more sculptures, angels, and carved wooden doors waiting for us to be admired.

I love the woodwork of the Jesuit Missions.

To learn why I write about acts of kindness by a stranger, please read this post.

Additional Reading

For more stories on Bolivia see here or check out the Bolivia stories on our Landcruisingadventure website.

All photos by Coen Wubbels. Follow him on Instagram here and here.

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