Culture, La Paz

The Witches’ Market – La Paz, Bolivia

The Witches’ Market of La Paz, one of the tourist attractions of this Bolivian city, has been declared as an intangible cultural heritage of the Andean city, as a reference point for original knowledge, Andean ritual offerings and traditional medicine.

For the seller, with thirty years of experience, this recognition confirms that the Witches’ Market is the “heart” of the city, where the believer, the superstitious and the unbelieving mix and let themselves be surprised.

The Witches' Market - La Paz, Bolivia

Potions for love, powders to forget the unrequited being, amulets to attract good luck or stuffed llama fetuses to offer to Mother Earth are some of the attractions of the mystical Mercado de Las Brujas in La Paz, Bolivia, recently declared Intangible Heritage of the Andean city.

The narrow and colorful streets behind the San Francisco Church, in the old town of La Paz, protect the millenary wisdom that surprises those who walk through its cobblestone streets.

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In this peculiar market one can heal the evils of the soul and heart with perfumes that assure they will attract the desired being, or magic powders that if taken every day will bring money or good fortune.

Like the pusanga powder, a plant that according to the saleswoman Flora Lopez explained will help to conquer the dreamed person, or the dog tongue ones, which will attract more women or men, but only if these concoctions are taken daily.

Others help to the sexual vigor or to revert some curse, but also there are ceramic amulets with different forms to make sure that all the positive thing stays and that the envy and the bad vibes leave or at least they move away.

“Everything depends on the faith with which you come to this street,” said Lopez, because for her that’s the secret for this diversity of amulets to work.

The shopkeeper said that for example the stuffed toads are used to call fortune and money, the ceramic owl to make a good year in the studio, the condor to make a successful trip or the sun to attract energy.

Many wear these amulets around their necks, others choose to keep them in their pockets or wallets so they are always on top of them.

Without a doubt the most sought after objects are those that help to attract love, as well as the llama fetuses or the “candies” that are added to the offerings for the Pachamama or Mother Earth, in which they are burned to thank her for the prosperity or buried to ask her permission to start a new construction.

The market is an obligatory stop for tourists, who walk around it amazed by the quantity and uniqueness of the collection of objects loaded with faith and mysticism.

“I find it interesting that so much value is placed on the spiritual and the ancestral culture,” said Lucas Yoni, who first came to La Paz from the United States and for whom it is an “exotic” and unique place to visit.

Other stands sell medicinal plants to cure body ailments, which offer the well-known “chifleras”, from chamomile, wira wira and eucalyptus to fight colds to aloe vera for hair loss.

Some trays are prepared with a variety of plants to take baths against curses, or ointments like one based on mule fat, against bone pain.

Other potions such as “devil’s guts” ensure that whoever ingests them will stay away from alcohol forever.

The yatiris, indigenous wise men, read the luck in the millenary coca leaf or in letters, to know what destiny has in store or how health will be.

You can also find an endless number of Bolivian crafts and textiles, which fill those crowded streets with bright colors.