Issue - January 2008

January 2008

In this issue, Ross Eventon gives a different perspective about love in Addicted to love and other Chemicals, Walter Sanchez brings to us Yanaqawa: the Sacred Mountain, and finally Mel Stern explores families in Projects Abroad Bolivia and their relation with volunteers abroad.


January 2008


It is the only place in Bolivia where you can watch the condors from above”. This is a beautiful phrase that can describe the view from Yanaqaqa, the sacred mountain of the Isata Campesinos.

Walter Sánchez
Infography: Iván Montaño
Archeological Museum, University ofSan Simón

It is a huge mountain with a plateau on top of approximately 5 hectares (approx. 12 acres), at 3,300 m.s.n.m.. Here, the Campesinos grow potato, wheat and barley. From this mountain, you can view a sea of endless mountains that extend towards the north of the department of Potosí. Looking below over 1000 meters, you will find the River Caine (2,200 m.s.n.m.). The river’s fertile beaches are covered with maize crops and fruit trees and wind through various small canyons throughout the valley. The people also take their livestock to graze on these beaches.

Since pre-Colombian times, the richness of the minerals of this mountaint (copper and silver) were constantly exploited. It is possible that during the pre-Ika and Incan times (1100 a.c. – 1530 a.c.) an important colony of artisans dedicated to making objects of metals – if we follow the archaeological evidence (metal objects, cast metal, stone grinders) – and whose ceramic style – renames by the archaeologist Ricardo Céspedes as the Rio-Caine (ancient Reptile style) – demonstrates a high sense of aesthetics.

During the Colonia and the Republic, the mines of Yanaqaqa continued to be exploited, mainly gathering silver and lead. At the end of the XIX century, according to the local traditions, the “Tío” (deformation of the word Dios – God) of the mine is found in one of the caves, sitting with his eyes open and a smirk on his face, dressed in military clothing of the time, waiting for the offerings the Isata campesinos give to him every year asking for fertile crops and livestock. His power is so great that each year he “eats” cows, sheep and even people. To calm his hunger, the campesinos offer him drinks and food, renewing the relationship between the campesinos and the “tío” of mutual dependence.

At his side, there are springs (juturis) where water flows all year round. Small holes from which, according to indigenous mythology, cattle is born. These were, without a doubt, important sanctuaries for the llama herdsmen that passed by during their trips through the valleys every year. The Andean Condor (Vulture Gryphus), resides in the cliffs of Yanaqaqa and China-pukara. As it is a sacred bird, it is respected and even venerated

Gabriel Martínez, in a classic text, referred to the condors as “The Gods of the mountains in the Andes” (1984-1988, Revista del Museo de Etnografía y Folklore, 1-2) through 3 types of representation: 1. as an almost demonic deity due to Christian influence – also related to Supay (devil) and the “tio”, Andean deities ---- of livestock, but mainly minerals. 2. as an agricultural divine, vinculated with the phenomena of the weather, as well as provider of fertile crops and guardian of the crops; 3. as a keeper and protector of life, health, wellbeing and prosperity and good luck to the people. Another element associated with a God of the mountains, are past civilizations; this is why the mountains hide archaeological artifacts and pre- Hispanic tombs (chullpa) inside.

The sacred mountains or Gods of the mountains are the most notable community patrimonies of the Andes of Bolivia. They are regulators of the spiritual, agricultural, festive and religious life of the campsesinos.

As natural landscapes, these mountains are noted for their beauty, complemented by the flora and fauna. As cultural landscapes, product of human internsion, they possess artistic, ritual and religious elements that give them special meaning and significance.

Besides having such relevant characteristics, these mountains have not yet been given value. There are not any policies that protect or promote their existence and or preservation today.

We are more than a place to stay, say Projects Abroad families

For sure, Bolivia is a long way from home wherever you come from - 6,205 miles from London to La Paz, if you are interested. Who could forget that fact while trying to wash your hair in a cold trickle of water alleged by your hostel to be a shower, Hawaiians safely under your feet just in case of electric shocks. But Projects Abroad Bolivia volunteers are among some of the luckiest travellers around. They get to move into a family home while on their placement, share their lives with a local family, improve their Spanish without having to endure classrooms and textbooks - and maybe best of all

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