Discover tradition and culture throughout a journey revealing people and a place both highly symbolic inevitably leading you to beauty. Both remind us how beauty is hidden in simple things and nothing more than a journey into Paceñe ancient traditions and life can prove it.
In the Royal Academy’s dictionary of the Spanish language, Paceño means: “inbred of La Paz, capital of the Bolivian State”.
The symbol that rises driving us to escape from the often-shallow daily routines of our lives, like
“Ariadne’s thread” is the impression we find in the Paceña woman. She is the bearer of one of the many
and multifaceted traditions among the many indigenous cultures present in the territory, the Aymara
culture. We usually label these women, perpetual workers and tireless icons, after their language label
known as “Cholita”, diminutive of “Chola” which means “half-breed”.
The extreme impulsion towards modernisation is not always a symbol of improvement and by embracing it we often risk losing uniqueness and essence of our identity as human beings.
The perfect place to capture the best snapshot of Bolivian customs and true Bolivian life from the olden days is “L’Isla del Sol”. This is the largest island of Lake Titicaca, rising to 3800 meters above sea level it is also the natural border between Bolivia and Peru. In its waters, considered the highest most navigable in the world, is the foundation of the greatest and most powerful myth in the history of Latin American colonization.
It is where the two Incas Mango Càpac and Mama Occlo came from and under Inti’s order (God of the sun) they founded Cuzco, the city that would later become the capital of the empire.
The lake is sacred, and tradition, myth and history are filled with an inextricable trichotomy and entanglement. “Titi Khar’ka” or “The Rock of the Puma” is not to be touched, you respect it for what mythology wants it to be: the place where the Inca civilization began.
Such magnificence could not be ignored and has surrendered to cultural evolution in the inexorable passage of time. In fact, it has become increasingly an object of tourism. Nevertheless, it does not fail in giving a resonant force that invites us to meet revoking archetypal sentiments. You end up projecting yourself into a lost timeless world and the sensation of freedom that you can savour makes this one of the few pristine pearls scattered around the world today. A place where you can take refuge and where kindness and generosity are experienced, living directly on our own skin that genuine spirit that only such a poor and sincere nation can give. Rediscover yourself by crossing cultivated fields, blossoming valleys that soar above the lake in both directions painting a landscape as if it were a palette of colour of a thousand astonishing shades. There are no streetlights to illuminate your way, only nature emanating from the moon and the stars. The unique magic evoked by this quiet autonomous rural community can be discovered throughout the ancient ruins from “Roca Sagrada”, until you get to the “Mesa Ritual”, where there once was a sacred place where human sacrifices were offered to the gods. The Aymara myth tells us about a dualistic ordering principle present in the world. Man-woman, upper-lower, sky and earth, as well as positive-negative and day and night, are nothing more but “diairesis” that grow thicker under the personification of the sun and moon. Who knows how many more secrets are hidden in the venerable lake? Where submerged cities have already risen to the surface as ancient testimony; and where many others still seem to be resided due to lack of funding for explorations.
It is in places like this that one takes the liberty of abandoning oneself to the apparent immaculate static beauty of nature and intuitively understands its mysteries. People experience with the heart obliterating reasonable thought. Here your sleeping patterns are dictated by the sun’s hours, there is an open invitation to meditate wherever you end up. In fact, the flock – while the sun sets behind the mountains – simply returns to pasture, leaving you alone and in silence. “How sweet it is to shipwreck at sea”. The true “Cholita” dominates her destiny by choosing and it is, most of the time, to perpetuate the family tradition. “My mother, my grandmother were Cholitas and for this reason so am I”.
These elderly ladies are all dressed up in long puffy skirts called “polleras”, in a bowler sombrero hat that gives prominence to the long black braids often bearing flashy extensions and brightly coloured pumps. Their fascination is captured in their natural gait with their baby wrapped and resting on their back thanks to the use of skilfully finished fabrics that do not fail to evoke and unveil the warmth of the soul. In the past they were discriminated against due to their dress code and were not allowed to play any relevant role in society.
We are lucky to be able to experience places and people that were able to retain their original essence and culture. That naive innocence that meets up with the sensitivity are looked upon with wonder through westernized eyes. The extreme impulsion towards modernisation is not always a symbol of improvement and by embracing it we often risk losing uniqueness and essence of our identity as human beings.
Even here, the reflexive impulse dictated by globalization and tending towards change and progress is nowadays one of the many elements of a Bolivia that has chosen to change since the 1980s, and where in these years “Cholitas” have gained additional rights which now allow them to exercise new professions that were unthinkable before. Politics, sports and media are now all fields accessible to these women and they are at risk of abandoning their own traditions – those that uniquely define them – in favour of an increasingly profitable and prevarication-oriented modern society where this risks eliminating part of an authenticity that supplants the concept of natural life and transposes it to an ephemeral that never subsides and is self-devouring.
Such a journey leaves a person speechless and sweeps away the sedimented dust that symbolises our contemporary obligation to wear, according to the occasion, the most disparate masks – trampling the coveted but often abused nature.
Who ever thought there would be the need to manipulate life as if it were a carnival?