Witches' Market (Mercado de las Brujas)
Visit Cerro Cumbre, a mountain clearing of Bolivia that locals believe to be holy, and you will find the Witches’ Market. Also known as La Hechiceria and El Mercado de Las Brujas, it is a popular tourist attraction in La Paz.
Dozens of vendors line the streets, selling a variety of obscure and very strange products, ingredients and whatever else may be necessary to carry out traditional spiritual rituals from the Aymara world. The Aymara are indigenous people that live in the Altiplano and Andes regions, with nearly two million in Chile, Peru and Bolivia. Local witch doctors known as yatiri run the market, and goods sold include a variety of potions, dried frogs, medicinal plants like retama, and armadillos. Other products are owl feathers, dried turtles and snakes, herbs, candles, amulets, soaps, and various other folk remedies.
The meanings behind some of the products are intriguing. Dried frogs are used for good luck with money, and if you stick a cigarette in the frog’s mouth, your chances of getting rich will improve. Naked ceramic couples are believed to improve your sex life, while fixing issues like fertility and impotency, and Bolivian armadillos are affixed to the entrance of homes to deter thieves. And the cute ceramic couples embracing? Well, those are amulette d’amor, and they help improve your chances of getting married.
If you’re curious how to spot one of the witch doctors that frequent the market area, look for individuals wearing black hats and carrying coco pouches. These pouches have amulets, talismans, and powders that bring luck, beauty and fertility.
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