If you find yourself in La Paz the witches market, or mercado de las Brujas, is a spot that you definitely can’t pass up seeing. It’s an area off of the main market places that sells a variety of completely bizarre items that will make you question “why”?
I remember strolling through the market and seeing dried llama fetuses in baskets and hanging all around the entrances of the shops. When entering many shops I remember there being dried frogs, turtles and alligators and being offered ‘potions’ and ‘spells’ to punish a cheating lover or ward off illness.
Many of the shop owners are very friendly and eager to share the reasoning behind each item available. I learned, for example, that the llama fetuses are meant to bring good luck and prosperity. Some people choose to hang them outside their doors and many are actually buried into the foundations of buildings as cha’lla, offerings, to the goddess Pachamama.
As if the items sold in the shops themselves aren’t eerie enough, there are actual witch doctors, yatiri, strolling through the market. They’re easily identified by their dark hats and cocoa pouches and offer fortune telling services to locals and tourists alike.
Though you may be tempted to spend all of your money at the witches market, don’t forget that 99.9% of items sold here can’t be take across borders…because, obviously!
I did, however, pick up a couple of figurines that the shop owners wrapped with colourful llama wool to ward off back luck and intruders.
Have you been to the witches market in La Paz? What was your experience like?
For me it was eye opening, I had never seen anything quite like this place and don’t know that I ever will again. I found it hard to see some of the items, like the head of an endangered jaguar for sale, but also found some of the beliefs and non-animal related items fascinating.