Famous Witches Market
Attractions & Activities In La Paz
Surely La Paz’s most talked about and written about attraction, the Mercado de las Brujas (Witches’ Market), located in Cerro Cumbre, is the place to go for anyone who wants a little help from the spiritual world – whether to heal your ailments, help you find love or even to exact revenge. Dozens of vendors set up stalls in this section of town (which is just one small part of La Paz’s sprawling open-air market). They sell everything from magical amulets and good-luck charms to potions and ceremonial ingredients. Among the assortment of items on offer here are all manner of medicinal plants, dried reptiles, desiccated armadillos and fake money, which is said to attract wealth.
There is one product sold here whose visual shock-value makes it stand out from all others: dried llama fetuses. Though Westerners may find these unborn creatures macabre, their purpose is not to scare. Instead, they are used in a common ritual, known as ch’alla, which takes place all around the country. The fetuses are placed under the cornerstone of new buildings in the hope that they will protect and bring good luck to all who live within. And in case you’re wondering how they came to be here: most of the llamas sold here are said to be the result of natural miscarriage, a common occurrence for llamas particularly during the rainy season.
The market is also home to witches, though not of the clichéd crooked-nose-and-pointy-hat variety. The ‘witches’ here are yatiri, ceremonial practitioners and community healers who are said to be able to communicate with the spirits on behalf of ordinary mortals. The yatiri usually don black (decidedly un-witchy) hats and coco pouches.
Whether you put much stock in the charms, lotions and potions of the market or not, it’s worth remembering that you are a visitor in their native land and showing respect is imperative. Don’t take photos or touch objects without asking first.
A guided tour of La Paz’s famed Witches’ Market is a must for any travelers on a luxury tour of Bolivia.
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