San Jose de Chiquitos was founded in 1697 by the Jesuit fathers Felipe Suarez and Dionisio de Avila is one of the former Jesuit Missions located 266 km east of Santa Cruz de la Sierra city towards the Brazilian border.
The mission was founded in 1561 by captain Nuflo de Chavez a few kilometers away at a site called Santa Cruz "La Vieja". The first inhabitants were Samaros and Pinocas Indians and in 1990, UNESCO registered the entire Jesuit development at San Jose as a world heritage site.
According to the UNESCO, San Jose contains one of the most interesting Jesuit Reductions in the Chiquitos area with four chapels intended for processions at each corner of the Plaza.
Nowadays, still remains a church from 1731, a mortuary chapel, a church tower dated 1748 and a Father's House from 1754. The facade of the whole building was built of stone, brick, is highly original and the only one of this style in the Chiquitos Missions.
The whole mission is under restoration thanks to a strong partnership between UNESCO, the Spanish Cooperation and the Sucre Restoration School for Historical Monuments, which opened an office in San Jose in 2007.
This School trains youth of the area in sculpture, wood carving, masonry and weaving following ancestral methods.
Restoration work discovered magnificent mural paintings and a visit to the Father's House provides insight into the history of the buildings. The church is open to the public and visits to restoration areas are organized.
Geographically, San Jose de Chiquitos (300 m.a.s.l), is located on the "Bosque seco Chiquitano" which is one of the driest forests on earth. This forest is located at the crossroads between the Amazon Basin in the north, the Chaco in the south and the Pantanal in the west.
The climate is agreeable year round with average summer (Oct-April) temperatures between 26 to 33 C. and average winter ( May- Sept) temperatures from 14 to 30 C. The rainy season is usually between December and February, but over the past years, the climate has been more erratic.
This Jesuit settlement is the oldest in the area and is very similar to the North Argentinean or Paraguayan missions, However these last missions are now ruins or museums, while San Jose church still celebrates mass and hosts a very active music school.
Others points of interest in San Jose de Chiquitos:
- Historical site of Santa Cruz la Vieja
- The Mirador
- The moon's valley
- Letei Lagoon
- Turubo Mountain