- This article is about the town in Bolivia. For the dry lakebed in New Mexico, see Valle Grande.
|Department||Santa Cruz Department|
|Elevation||6,660 ft (2,030 m)|
Vallegrande (Spanish: "Big Valley") is a small colonial town in Bolivia, located in the Department of Santa Cruz, some 125 km (bee-line) southwest of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It is the capital of the Vallegrande Province and Vallegrande Municipality and serves as a regionally important market town. The small town is best known for being the first burial site of revolutionary Che Guevara, after his 1967 assassination.
The town lies in a big valley (hence the name) at an altitude of 2,030 m (6,660 ft) and has approximately 6,000 inhabitants. It has a mild temperate climate due mainly to its valley location, altitude, and the cold winter fronts the sweep the plains of Santa Cruz known as "Surazo".
The main industries in the area revolve around agriculture and its derived products. The region is mainly dedicated to the production of grains such as corn and wheat, and fruits such as peaches, apples, grapes, pears, chirimoyas and plums. Among the value added products the most important are homemade bread, chamas, fruit liquor, wine, handmade rugs, and other handcrafts.
Vallegrande was founded by the Spanish in 1612 under the name Ciudad de Jesús y Montes Claros de los Caballeros del Vallegrande (Town of Jesus and Montes Claros of the knights of Vallegrande). It was intended to serve as a frontier to prevent the constant raids of the Guarani warriors that dominated the region. Many of the original inhabitants of Vallegrande were Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews converted to Catholicism and persecuted by the inquisition in Spain and nearby La Plata and Potosi, for they were suspected to continue to secretly practice Judaism. Others came from Santa Cruz de la Sierra as Vallegrande became the main transit point in the route that connected Santa Cruz with the mines of Peru.
During the 18th and 19th centuries Vallegrande steadily grew and became the urban and cultural center of the region with a population of 25,000 by 1900. In the 20th century, though, concurrent with the rise of the nearby Santa Cruz, Vallegrande's importance gradually declined.
"We have come here, to the same place where his assassins tried to make him disappear, to tell him that we have made his dreams of justice and equality for the dispossessed come true."— Rafael Daussa, Cuban Ambassador to Bolivia, at a June 14th 2009 memorial service in Vallegrande 
It was on the airstrip in Vallegrande that the remains of Che Guevara were discovered in 1997, and though his remains have gone to Cuba the former graves remain. Guevara had been buried in this location after his execution in the nearby village of La Higuera in 1967.
As a result of Guevara's body being buried in the area, thousands of tourists make the pilgrimage each year to Vallegrande in order to honor the leftist icon. Shopkeepers peddle Che posters, pins and hats, and images of the long-haired Guevara in a beret look down from the walls inside restaurants, hotels and cafes. A museum also recalls his life as a revolutionary. Carlos Robert Pena, who owns a Guevara-themed restaurant in Vallegrande, told Reuters in 2007 that "If it wasn't for Che, not many foreigners would come here."
Additionally, Guevara is revered as "Saint Ernesto" in Vallegrande by some locals, who believe his death has added a mystical element to the dusty town of mud-brick houses and dirt roads. Ligia Moron, who turned out with hundreds of other Bolivians to see Guevara's corpse in October 1967, stated that "His spirit is alive in this town. I think he (Che) should be anointed a saint."
- Birthday of Ernesto Che Guevara Commemorated in Bolivia by the Cuban News Agency, June 15 2009
- Bolivian Town Cashes in on Che Guevara Legacy by Eduardo Garcia, Reuters, October 7 2007
- Página de Vallegrande
- Página de Vallegrande
- Map of Vallegrande Province
- Vallegrande Travel Guide
- The Che Trail in Bolivia
- Che Guevara Route, Vallegrande Region
- The Local Deity: Bones or Not, Vallegrande's a Must Stop on the Che Route by Joshua Hammer, Newsweek, 1997
- Che Guevara Legacy Lives on in Bolivia BBC News, August 24 2004
- Bolivian Town Recalls Che Assassination Prensa Latina, October 8 2008
- Che Sat Here: The Making (and Marketing) of a Martyr by Alex Ayala Ugarte, Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 2009 Issue