Mercado de Hechicería – La Paz, Bolivia

A Witchcraft Market That Promises Peculiar Finds

La Paz’s daily Witchcraft Market is a fascinating place to visit: Herbal tea fusions and homeopathic folk cures as old as the Andes themselves abound, and there are coca leaves, figurines, snakeskins, and slabs of llama lard to be burned in offerings to the gods, amulets to guarantee a long and happy sex life, and other strange things. Integral to the native Kallawaya traditions of magic and healing is the local Aymara belief that their world is populated with benevolent and male­volent spirits – and many that can swing either way, depending on how they’re treated.

The market has lately begun to accommodate the growing number of gringo curiosity seekers, and booths selling colorful alpaca sweaters and woven textiles understandably do a brisker business than the vendors pushing dried llama fetuses. But the proud chola women (a reference to the native Bolivian dress) still sit among their witchcraft goods like queens, unfailingly wearing two braids fas­tened behind them and bowlers adopted from the British many generations ago.

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