walkscape Titicaca Lake
La boca del sapo
Posted on June 28, 2018

At 3812 mt above the sea level, the Titicaca is the world's highest navigable lake. Its name probably comes from the oldest Aymara and Quechua language, which mean lead-coloured puma. On the Bolivian side of the lake, a small coastal town catches the scene, its called Copacabana. The landscape is rapidly colonized by the rough Bolivian brick houses while the beach is crowded with people and little boats which go to the islands of the lake. Far from the edge of the lake, the difference in height increases having a hard time to reach the top of the small mountain which overlook the town.

This is not a normal moment for the town, this week is dedicated to the "Virgen de Copacabana", beloved all over Latin America. In this occasion, the town becomes crowded with so many pilgrims which mix their religious rituals with the local indigenous ones. Going up to the top, on the side of the road, very significative characters appear, the so-called Yatiri. Devoted to medical practices and community healing, these individuals represent a crucial presence in the Aymara culture. Their extemporary stands made with cardboard boxes are busy with any kind of objects. On a side, the religious symbols of the "Virgen" and on the other, coca leaves, elixirs or pots filled by molten metal. All these things prepared to predict the future of the users.

After the first strenuous meters, we arrive on a kind of terrace from which is possible to admire the bigness of the lake with its intensive colours. Right below, another curious situation becomes clear. So many little circles made of stones are arranged along the terraces. Meanwhile, a traditional "Cholita" sets up stones in a circle, adding a series of wooden sticks to the composition. This ritual does appear to be a way to ask for a personal house. Usually, the stones arranged in a circle represent the fence while the sticks are the trees. Once having seen the ritual, we decide to go down the slopes of the little mountain following a group of people along the path.


We don't know where they are headed, but the sensation of meeting something curious increases. After a while, we bump into a surreal place. It's a crowded pier, where a strong smell of incense floods the air. Under an arbour, the Yatiris are busy with the future of entire families. Every desk is adorned with traditional coloured blankets and it is dusted with yellow petals.

In addition, the quantity of mystic objects is enormous. Anyway, the real attraction seems to be a big rock in the water, called "boca del sapo", which literally means toad's mouth. In front of it, people throw a bottle filled with a yellow liquid, probably alcohol, against the rock. Before the launch, they say "con mucha fe" which means "with complete faith". If the bottle breaks, fortune will help them, otherwise no. Yet another ritual which demonstrates the mystical nature of this land, the perfect union between sacred and profane.