Chavez Family History – Severiano Chavez

This was one of the last photos taken of Severiano Chavez, the great grandfather of my children on Nadia’s side of the family. It was taken around 1965 at the finca Brasilia near Warnes, Bolivia. Behind Severiano is my father-in-law, Hermes, who was around 25 years old at the time and his sister, Graciela (around 30 years old). Severiano died in April of 1968.

Hermes told me a couple stories that I wanted to save for the family history I am building on my blog. The first takes place in around 1909. Severiano at age 26, left the ranch to go to Argentina to buy mules. He returned with 90 mules and went to the Pando department (an Amazonian state north of Santa Cruz) and traded the mules for rubber. He put the rubber in a boat and sent it to Manaus, Brazil where he sold the rubber for 4,500 libras de Queen Victoria in gold. This whole adventure took almost a year and he returned in 1910.

On the estancia there lived about 20 families, all part of the Perez family. They had fled another estancia where the patron was mean. They were not slaves, being paid a wage, and they were free to come and go, but they were at the mercy of land owner. They are referred to as peones, peons, which is a Spanish American agricultural worker. Severiano treated them well and there was a total of around 80 people. He even built a school for the children and hired a teacher. My father-in-law remembers going to school with them.

Hermes told me when the Chaco War started, the population of the workers increased with people fleeing from being drafted in the war. Severiano gave refuge and work to them. During the war years, he became richer because of the increased workers and he sold rice and corn to the army. Severiano later had a sugar cane production mill and made molasses to sell and make aguardiente, a distilled alcoholic beverage. Severiano bought a 1935 chevrolet 3-ton truck.

I will try to get more stories from Hermes while I am here on holiday in Bolivia.


Seeing God

Pope Francis cruising by me tonight in Santa Cruz!

We had quite a thrill briefly seeing Pope Francis tonight! A big thank you to Ximena, Gaby and Ines for taking us along. We were not planning to go after watching the crowd reaction in La Paz earlier today, but when Gaby called, we decided to check it out. We drove over a few blocks to the Avenida Alemana (Germany Avenue) here in the north part of Santa Cruz to wait for him to come by. The pope landed at the Viru Viru airport and was escorted to a cardinal’s home where he will be spending the evening.

My blurry photo of the pope.

All Latin Americans I know are Catholic and so having the pope come to Bolivia has created a lot of excitement and anticipation in the city. It was kind of like seeing God, with his lighted pick up truck come by. We were probably 10 feet away from him and I could see him quite clearly. He looked healthy and vibrant, this despite spending the day at 3,500 meters in La Paz and a flight to Santa Cruz, and at 78 years old, it must be tough for him.

We all were thrilled with seeing Pope Francis so close to us!

Earlier today I took the dog Lulu for a run down to where Pope Francis will be saying mass tomorrow morning. The security was out in force and they made the area near the big Christ statue look pretty good. People were sleeping on the street to get a good seat tomorrow. They were setting up big screens so if people are far from the altar, they can still see the mass. The altar was done in a style like the Jesuit missions here in eastern Santa Cruz department.

The city has caught Pope Francisco fever and it is fun to have his visit happen while we are here. I am reading a Wall Street e-book on his life and how he became pope and might post some more.

The nuns from Universidad Catolica de Bolivia are looking forward to his visit.

Chavez Family History (Severiano Chavez 1884 to 1968)

While I am on holiday in Santa Cruz, I’ve asked Hermes about his father and found some old photographs. Severiano is the great grandfather of my children and I am doing a series of posts on our family’s geneology. It will be good to capture these stories for future generations of my family.

Severiano Chavez Justiniano was born in 1884 and died in 1968. He was born in Santa Cruz, Boliva. He inherited from his father, a land holding of 2,500 hectares (over 6,000 acres) located north of the city in the province of Warnes. He owned 300 head of cattle, and also produced sugar and molasses for the city.

He was not the simple farmer that many immigrants were in America. Severiano belonged to the high society of Santa Cruz and was the governor of the province. He also belonged to the 24 of September Club.The club is named after the date of Santa Cruz’s founding. This is the oldest association of Crucenos dedicated to running of the city and socializing.

Severiano, like many “patrons” of the age, had a rich family life. He was married four times and fathered 9 children.

His first wife was Ester Cronenbold, who died while giving birth to their daughter, Ester Chavez Cronenbold. His next wife was Castulia Zabala and he had three children with her. They were Meri, Mari, and Saul Chavez Zabala. His third wife was my children’s maternal grandmother, Leocadia Chavez. She was very young (born 1926) and despite the same last name, they were NOT related. She had four children, Graciela, Silvia, Hermes, and Ever.

Leocadia sadly fled the ranch when Nadia’s father, Hermes was only 2 and 1/2 years old. She left in the middle of the night with the baby son, Ever. Leocadia ended up in Brazil and it was not until many years later that she came back and saw Hermes again. In recent years, Herme’s brother Ever, came to Santa Cruz from Brazil to stay with Hermes on occasion. He recently died of cancer. I’ll write more about Leocadia and the others in later posts. I wrote previously on Silvia Chavez Chavez.

Severiano at 70 years old married a fourth woman, Sara Pizarro and they lived together for 12 years before Severiano died of pneumonia. Severiano sired a ninth child, Ana Maria Chavez Pizarro.

Because Severiano was so old when he fathered Hermes (age 56), Hermes didn’t really have much to say about his father, although he loved him dearly. Things obviously were much different back then. I wonder what it would have been like here in Bolivia at that time. I’ll try to find out more about him when I come back to Bolivia. I imagine being a rich, land-owning, Creole in the former Spanish colonies had its advantages. Below is a photo of Severiano with some other 20th century gentlemen, most likely the 24 of September Club.

El Guembe BioCenter


Last week we spent the day at the El Guembe BioCenter. It is a 24-hectare environmental complex located across the Pirai River just outside of Santa Cruz.. They have a nice little reserve of tropical lowland forest and we spotted this sloth, high up in the trees. The sloths used to be in the plaza downtown, but as the city is growing, it was best to put them in a nicer place.

The owner has a really nice place and I recommend a visit! I appreciate their committment to environmental education. They have several museums, and their aviary / butterfly dome / orchid garden are the best I’ve ever seen! They combined it the standard tourist facilities and there is a nice hotel, restaurant, and swimming pool. It is a great day out for the kids and they keep wanting to go back. The nice thing about the winter season is we have the place basically to ourselves.

The center is the closest to what I would have if I was a multimillionaire. It really adds something different to Santa Cruz.

The Boys Approach a Macaw in the Aviary


Miss Bolivia 2011

Miss Bolivia 2011 - Yessica Mouton Giarella

Beauty pageants are huge in Latin America and Bolivia is no exception. Last night here in Santa Cruz, they held the 2011 version of the Miss Bolivia competition. I’ve been seeing the 20 some “misses” being driven around the city on my runs. A Hummer limousine that is promoting the contest has been transporting them to the various photo opportunities and  promotional events. The local newspaper, El Deber, has a full rundown of the event here, although it is Spanish.

The event is absolutely hilarious and Nadia and I had a good laugh watching it on television. I can’t believe these girls take the event so seriously and put themselves through the ordeal. In the paper yesterday, they had the “lo bueno” and “lo malo” of each candidate like they were a soccer team. The writer or writers were quite blunt with the pros and cons of each candidate. For example, some of the comments were as follows:

For the winner, Ms.Mouton:

Lo Bueno – Beautiful. Without a doubt the best face in the competition. Her figure is in harmony (well-proportioned) and her hair is perfect. She is nice and active.

Lo Malo – She is about 4 centimeters too short.

Ms. La Paz:  Lo Malo – “She is missing fitness and has a few too many kilogramcitos”

Ms. Eastern Plains: Lo Bueno – “She displays a beautiful face, bust, and “behind”…everything in its place.”

Ms. Littoral: Lo Malo – “a forced smile.”

The winner was one of the favorites and all of the girls were quite attractive. If those things were written about my daughter, I would have a problem with it. I didn’t like the amount of make up the girls wore or the evening gowns and continuous smiles during the 2 hour+ competition. I also felt bad for them with the amount of steps they had to negotiate on the stage on high heels. The organizers should have taken this into account and done a better job with stage design. The format of the show was also very unimaginative and I would definitely improve entertainment value of the show by adding some different activities and adding some more video clips to the evening program.

It was an exceptional night of television viewing with not only the contest, but CNN in Espanol carried Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s announcement of his cancer treatment from Havana. Having lived in Venezuela for five years, I have some opinions on this topic but will save this for another post. It is so nice to be able to understand the language. I wish my Serbian was better so I could follow events in the country closer.