There is a certain amount of irony surrounding the Bolivian street of Calle Jaen. Considered to be the best example of a colonial street in the capital city of La Paz, Calle Jaen two centuries ago served as a home to many of the revolutionaries who would help lead Bolivia out from the shackles of colonialism and onward towards Bolivian independence.
When strolling the narrow, cobble-stoned alley of modern day Calle Jaen, it’s humbling to think that some of the most influential figures in Bolivia’s tortured history once walked the same street and went to bed at night in the same colorful houses which stand here today.
One such revolutionary who once called Calle Jaen home, was Don Pedro Domingo Murillo, the renegade rabble-rouser who was ultimately hung in the square, now bearing his name. His former home is one of the Calle Jaen museums today and visitors are able to walk inside and explore period pieces left over from his days in the capital. Another revolutionary was Apollinar Jaen, the man for whom the street was ultimately named.
Though Jaen doesn’t have his own museum, three other Calle Jaen museums complement the Casa de Don Pedro Domingo Murillo to provide a unique view of Bolivian history and culture. At the Museo de Metales Preciosos Precolombinos (Museum of Precious Precolumbian Metals), various artifacts which date back to the days of the Inca and Aymara show the technology exhibited by peoples occupying these mountains for millennia. Also on Calle Jaen, the Museo de Litoral showcases a wide assortment of artifacts from the Spanish conquest which range from rifles, to maps to paintings of war scenes.
Finally, at the corner of Calle Jaen is the Museo Costumbrista which, as the largest of the four museums, displays a number of paintings and artwork which depict notable events in Bolivia’s history, such as the hanging of Murillo who lived just down the street. Access to all four Calle Jaen museums is available under the same ticket if purchased at Museo Costumbrista, and even though the street is short, there’s a lot to be learned in this narrow La Paz alleyway.