La Paz III – Roxana, Marius, Tiwanaku and Witch Craft

My last days in La Paz I spent with Roxana and Marius! They arrived on Friday morning at 3 am. After a short night we just walked, “cable-cared” and “microed” (micro = collective vans) around town and had a fun day. Now they are part of my world trip and I am, well, part of their honeymoon. Since I didn’t have a “real” honeymoon myself, I’m happy to be joining theirs… Were even sharing a triple room here, which is quite nice. But since they are a bit jetlagged and I am a light sleeper, I am basically jetlagged too. I have been awake since 4.30 am this morning (they fell asleep at like 8:30 pm yesterday) 🙂

Anyway, today they went to ride down the death road. I have survived it already (if you missed it, klick here) – so I decided to check out Tiwanaku, a pre-inkan ruined city near La Paz. They were apparently pretty advanced and there are some mysteries about their two phases of raise and fall and the construction of the city, especially how they transported the heavy rocks. Unfortunately I was too tired to follow the guide properly and there is not much info on Wikipedia either. They don’t have any written evidence, so I guess it’s hard to get the pieces together.

Afterwards I had my third carrot cake in town and a submarino – a chocolate bar dived in hot milk that turns into delicious hot chocolate once it’s molten. Now I am waiting and hoping Roxana and Marius survived the bike ride on the world’s most dangerous road and tomorrow we’ll be off to the Lake Titicaca. It’s time for me to leave, I already know my way around using public transportation like a pro!!

The day before they arrived I took part at a walking tour through La Paz which was very entertaining and informative. Even though I have been at most of the places before, I didn’t know the stories. Here is a “short” summary for those who are interested in witchcraft, prison life and how they all became Catholics…

The tour started at the Iglesia de San Francisco, still home of some Franciscan monks. Back in the day they came to what is now Bolivia to missionary the locals. They didn’t really want to use violence so at first it was quite unsuccessful. Basically for 200 years. However, they got the locals to help re-built the church after – and I forgot why – it got damaged. The Franciscans told them, they can put in their own creative ideas. That’s why there are for example weird carvings on the outside of the church, like a woman squatting down giving birth to a flower – an indication for fertility (indigenous women today still do squat down when giving birth, apparently). When some locals finally did go to church (because when it comes to saving your soul, it can’t harm) they saw their faces in the mirrors there for the first time ever. Being told that were their souls and due to their help rebuilding the church they are sort of “trapped” there now convinced the locals to show up every Sunday, to stay close to their own souls. This is how the Franciscan finally made the locals visit the catholic service.

The fact that they hadn’t been “converted” violently is quite unique and lead to the fact that until today, their catholic faith is “mixed” with the ancient faith of the Andean people in mother nature, Pachamama. When the priest hands out the wine, Christ’s blood, he for example spills the first bit on the floor, for Pachamama.

Also witchcraft is quite popular and one can buy the “ingredients” at the so called witch market. I had talked about that in a previous post. Basically you set up a little tray with a lama embryo or dead baby (that had died naturally right after birth or through natural abortion. Yes, lamas can control that and if something’s wrong with the fetus they can abort on purpose by eating toxic herbs). Those dead lamas plus some little plates with paintings of whatever one wants of Pachamama (for example a boyfriend, a car, a baby…anything is possible since anything comes from mother nature) have to be burnt together on that tray – the ashes has to be buried in soil to give it back to nature. After that you should be able to get what you wished for. A good example for that is the construction of houses. In this case one actually needs a witch doctor for the ceremony (a stable house is pretty important, especially since some landslide destroyed a lot that weren’t “blessed”). Workers won’t actually built the house if the ceremony, in which the landlords asks Pachamama for safety, hasn’t been performed. And of course after this ceremony you have to celebrate and buy lots of beer for the builders. There is basically no house in La Paz that has been built without doing that. Even under the US embassy you’ll find the ashes of a dead baby lama, the ambassador had to take part at the process and in the end buy tons of beer for his workers. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

Another “cool” and unique thing in La Paz is the prison, very close to downtown. They have pretty strict drug laws and lots of inmates in that prison, most of them breaking those laws. At some point the inmate – police ratio was like 45:1. This was when the police decided to just guard the outside of the prison, and left the inmates do what they want. This is not the only prison in the world where that’s the case, but in La Paz they actually developed some sort of democracy, with elections and votings. They gave their own houses / spaces, depending on how rich they are. They even have bank accounts, and can bribe the guards to let them out every now and then. Back in the day one of the inmates figured out he can make money buy guiding tourists through the prison. When that guy got released, it kind of got a little messy, tourists in there got robbed or “disappeared” for 2 weeks, coming back with only their shirt and underpants on. Well, bad things had happened so it’s illegal now for travelers to visit the establishment. However, illegal doesn’t mean impossible and if you hang out at the entrance long enough, someone will let you in which is not recommended or smart. It’ll be you and 2000 criminals without guards.

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