Tejerías: industrial sites of a not so remote past

The making of bricks and roof tiles, in what in Bolivia is known as tejerías (or in Spain as tejeras), is still an important part of the economic life of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Like pottery (alfarería: from the arabic word fahhâr, mud) and other related techniques, the tejería (teja: from the Latin word tegula, itself a diminutive based in the Latin root tegere, to cover) is an ancient industrial technology. The Europeans introduced the tejería technology to the Andes and the Amazon, where it combined with established native pottery traditions and diverse ceramic techniques. Pre-Columbian Andean buildings were roofed with woven reeds covered with plaster, and still today many peasant homes do not use roof tiles. Nevertheless tejas are an essential component of urban Hispanic Colonial architecture and a symbol of status. The urban landscape of Latin American cities would be inconceivable without this construction material.

According to historian of local traditions Carlos Cirbián (El Deber, September 2013), in the Colonial Period the tejerías were located in the city district known as “El Tao” (a deformation of the Chiquitano word tauch, meaning mud, or clay). A pond, fed by the waters coming from the tejerías, was part of this neighborhood until at least the end of the Nineteenth Century. At the beginning of the Nineteenth century it was inhabited by descendants of African slaves, who probably also worked in the brick-and-tile site. By the middle of the Twentieth Century the tejerías and the pond disappeared, replaced by a square, as part of the modern urban reform plan being implemented by Continue reading

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