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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Sunday, 12 June 2011

June 12th: La Paz

On June 12th 1976 I was in La Paz. 

This was the day of the festival de Nuestro Senor del Gran Poder, which is probably La Paz's greatest festival.  I was downtown early and saw all the people waiting.  Later I found a spot near the Plaza Lima where the atmosphere was expectant and everyone was throwing confetti around.  The festival was largely a parade, endless groups of people in costume or in their best ponchos and suits or dresses, with musical bands from time to time.  The first group was led by a huge Indian giant who kept a serious demeanour.  Each group did a little dance, all essentially the same and then moved on.  The first paraders were fascinating, but in the end it became too much the same and I fought my way through the crowds to leave.  The fiesta seemed to go on for days:  anywhere in the Indian town you might come across a little group marching round, especially in the area of the Gran Poder church.

In La Paz the Indian town was the place to be, the area above Calle Murillo.  Market stalls were out every day lining the streets selling everyday items, guarded by their cholo owners.  There was one street that sold drinks, fruit juices mainly, carrot or banana and so on, and at night they did api, the flavoured corn drink found all over the country which makes the cold evenings easier to take.  At the foot of this area, near the San Francisco Church, was the area selling magical items, such as llama foetuses.  If you spent your time along Avenida Buenos Aires you seemed to be in some huge perpetual market, from before daybreak up until nearly midnight.  You'd forget the more modern city a few blocks away down the slope.  In the middle of all this was the Alojamiento Buenos Aires, just off the Avenida, which was one of the more characterful cheap hotels I've stayed in.  There were rooms off long balconies above a courtyard used for storing market goods.  One side of the courtyard was for Indians and one for foreigners, and the two sides didn't mix; the foreigners' rooms were marginally better presented and a lot cleaner than the Indians' ones, and there were even one or two rooms overlooking the street with windows.

There are plenty of YouTube videos showing recent Gran Poder parades, such as this and this.

La Paz Market Area in 2009:  Picture by Szymon Kochanski, CC

Gran Poder Parade, 2007:  Picture by BrianWoychuk, CC

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