If you are into The Blair Witch Project, Hocus Pocus or even Harry Potter, then “The La Paz Witches Market” or “El Mercado de Las Brujas de La Paz” is for you. With its natural medicine, love potions and llama foetuses, this market will surely leave you flabbergasted and astounded.
The market is easily found as it is located in the touristic centre of La Paz, spread across both Jimenez and Linares street, a short stroll from San Francisco church. On approach, the market looks similar to any other South American market but upon investigation, the waft of incense and presence of the Yatiri (witch doctors) with their distinctive hats will draw you in and confirm your location.
DRIED LLAMA FOETUSES
You will become accustomed to seeing dried frogs and animal bones as you walk through the market but the real star of the show is the dried llama foetus. Whenever Bolivians are constructing a new house, they bury a llama foetus under the foundations as a gift to Pachamama (mother earth) in order to bring luck and health into their home. I was a little concerned about how so many llama foetus are attained, however, I was assured that there is no animal cruelty involved and the foetuses are only used after a miscarriage or if stillborn.
Having issues in your life? Maybe you want to curse someone, find your true love, or even improve your fertility. If so, then this market is a place you will want to visit. It has every type of potion imaginable, all readily available for you to buy. Be warned, the Yatiri may approach you after, toss cocoa leaves around, and tell you that your fortune is destined and the potion will not be able to assist. It is worth a try though...
If you are a gringo traveler like me and tend to be a little snap happy, be respectable and don’t include the vendors in the background of your pictures. I was informed by our BoliviaHop tour guide, that it is not customary for the Aymara people to have their pictures taken as some believe that the camera can remove part of their soul. Seek permission first if there is a shot you want to take, but don’t be shocked if they say No.
The market is relatively small and if you are more of a curious George like me then 30 minutes strolling through the market will be more than enough time to see all the oddities it has to offer. Take your time, embrace your surroundings and enjoy the smell of cocoa.