Monday, March 31, 2008

An aymara poet

Some days ago I met Clemente Mamani Laruta after long time. I asked him whether he was still working on the radio and he answered yes. I remembered that in We Media Miami Conference where Voces Bolivianas participated we talked something about the use of aymara language within Media in Bolivia.

Fidel Huanca, was one of the first persons involved in radio using aymara, a native language mainly used in the Andean part of Bolivia. After him, there were other people that continued this job and within them we find to Clemente Mamani Laruta who nearly has 25 years working on radio using this native language, aymara.

He was born in Catavi, Los Andes and he told me that during the 80’s he started working on Mendez Radio and then he continued with other ones: Altiplano Radio, Progreso Radio, Unidas Radio and San Gabriel Radio. During the last 18 years he has been working in San Gabriel where he has a radio program “Aymara Culture”, which includes interviews, tales, sociodramas for one hour and a half.

He also makes poetry in aymara and up to now he has some poetry written in this language. Here comes a little of his poem Qullasuyo.

Qullasuyu wiñay Marka:
irnaqawimp wali jach'aptata
churich'amampi utjnuqayata,
qullqi jump'impi laqnchata
pututunakan art'apampi jilsuyata,
titxa q'urawanakamp sayt'ayta

The meaning would be:

Eternal Kollasuyo, that has advanced with great strength, that has walked with a lot of effort, with the sound of pututus has advanced.

Note: A pututu is an instrument used to call for a meeting or some important event. The noise this instrument produces can be listened at long distances.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


I always think on going to visit the small towns located around Titikaka Lake in both sides: the Bolivian and Peruvian side. Although it is necessary to point out that all the area around this lake is from the same origin: indigenous aymaras.

I decided to go to Pomata. I departed from La Paz 8:30 and I arrived to the bolivian-peruvian border at 10:00. There I found to Jaime, a friend who was born in Pomata. He told that there was a place which could be interesting for me. Ok, I said anxious to know what that was. We got to Pomata, we went into the church and he showed me the place.

“Look, here there are stairs. These stairs take to tunnels that go under the lake and take to Cuzco”, he said.

“Oh, there is a tunnel at San Francisco church in La Paz, too”, I replied.

This was not the first time that I had listened this story. It is repeated in various places. This is something not solved yet. There is a mystery that surround the lake, mystery that could be solved in the following years. It is said that there is a city under the lake and that there are a lot of tunnels that connect the ancient important cities.

This short entrance in the picture is on the floor and I could see some stairs but I can´t assure where they conduct.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


"Lunch time and I don´t have time to go back home. So, what do I do?", I asked myself.

There are a lot of small restaurants in El Alto with different menus at different prices and I decided to find some hot soup. I said, “I will look for Chairo Paceño”. And What is Chairo Paceño? Chairo is a traditional soup in La Paz. It is based on charque, charque is dried lama meat which gives a special taste to this soup. Lately, a lot of charque is exported abroad because lama meat has a low level of cholesterol.

Other important part of this soup is chuño. Chuño is potatoe to which water has been taken out through a freezing process done in winter time here in June. The preparation includes fresh potatoe and vegetables which will have to be cooked for about 45 minutes or more.

After walking for a while I finally found the right place for my lunch. This time, I paid 3 bolivianos for this soup, but it can be 5 or more depending on the restaurant.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

School girls in Qalla

Qalla is a little rural town within Jesús de Machaqa. Its local school joins boys and girls from different ages.

According to the Bolivian Education System, the school period lasts 12 years which means that children start school at the age of 6 and finish when they are 18. But the situation in rural areas is different, because sometimes parents can´t afford to send their children to school, so they wait a year or two years more which means that they go to school when they are 7, 8 or more years old. This is more complicated with girls because it happens that they have to abandon school after three, four or five years of attending school. It happens because they have to stay at home to help their parents with the daily activities. Other times, when girls are 15, 16, 17 years old they go to urban areas and start working for long hours without receiving an adequate salary.

The day I took this picture, they had got out from school to go to Jesús de Machaqa to participate in a public event to remember the indigenous rebellion of March 12, 1921.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Today I was walking on the Ceja. Ceja is the center of El Alto. It is always crowded and one can find nearly everything to buy on the streets. Today we fortunately had a sunny and beautiful day, appropriate to buy some fresh fruit. So, I decided to buy some peaches and grapes.

“How much is a pound of grapes?”, I asked to the seller.

“3 bolivianos”, she answered.
“Then, I will take 2 pounds”, I said.

She took the balance and measured 2 pounds, and she gave me yapa too. Yapa is a native word that means an additional amount. For example, if you buy a certain amount of fruit or vegetables, the seller gives you a bit more of the product free.

“And how much does the peaches cost?”, I asked.
“25 peaches, 7 bolivianos”, she said.
“Then, I will take 25”, I said.
She counted 25 and gave 3 more peaches as yapa.

It is better to buy by 25, 50 o 100 in some products because the cost is lower than buying by smaller quantities. In the case of other products we buy by pounds.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Last Wednesday I was going to Jesus de Machaqa, which is a town approximately three hours from El Alto. Jesus de Machaqa is an aymara rural town. On the way to this place there were a lot of little towns. One of these was, Yauri Qurawa . There, there was a Feria, a feria is generally done is the square of the town to sell and buy or change products as potatoes, fresh cheese, onion, milk and sometimes there are lamas, cows, pigs. An inhabitant from that area told me that there is Feria each Wednesday and that she goes there to buy vegetables brought from other town, Qurpa.

It was a nice experience to be in this Feria. As it was early in the morning, I found a woman collecting milk from the generous cow. After a short time, I had to say goodbye to this place because I was still far from Jesus de Machaqa.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Walking down the mains streets in La Paz, one finds young boys and girls who are known as zebras. Dressed in the white and black suit they call the attention of people sometimes with funny movements. They are in La Paz for about four years ago and it is the only place within Bolivia where one can find these zebras. They have this name because they have a zebra appearance. Some years ago the La Paz Major created this group of people that could help to organize the chaotic traffic in La Paz. They are on the streets for about eight hours a day from Monday to Friday. Some people finds them funny, others think they are helpful but the truth is that they have become part of daily life in La Paz.

Following the steps of my ancestors

To the Amazon