Bolivian wise men offer gifts, plead with Mother Earth to end the drought

Sep 25, 2023 | 0 comments

Amautas, or Andean wise men, offered gifts, prayers and native music to Mother Earth as part of a ritual at more than 5,200 meters above sea level to appease the extreme drought affecting Bolivia.

Aymara wise men make an offering to Pachamama during a ritual to alleviate the drought, in Chacaltaya, Bolivia, in early September.

“We are asking Mother Earth (Pachamama) for water for all of Bolivia’s departments,” Víctor Mamani, the main representative of the ancestral spiritual leaders in La Paz, said.

A delegation of about twenty amautas, men and women, were stationed at Mount Chacaltaya, in the heart of the Andes, considered a “waka” or “sacred” place by ancient cultures, where they performed the rites for the deities to grant the “blessing” of rain.

The sacred site, which was a glacier and a famous ski resort nearly two decades ago, is accessed by a narrow and steep road about 25 kilometers north of El Alto, a city adjacent to La Paz.

The rites were performed on a plateau, on the edge of a cliff surrounded by mountains with little snow, where the amautas placed in a couple of baskets the offering (wajta) to Pachamama, which consists of piles of firewood and several tablets of sugar, flowers, incense, coca leaves and two llamas made of animal fat.

The ceremony “must be prepared with love and courage,” the group of amautas must have “a lot of knowledge” and be “chosen people,” Mamani explained.

The “spiritual guides” then recited prayers to the heavens and set the offerings on fire to the sound of a pair of Andean flutes and a drum.

Mamani indicated that the ritual was for “the nine departments” that make up the country, but especially for Oruro, La Paz and Potosí, where the drought is “total.”

The situation in the city of Potosi is critical, as water reserves are at a level of only 15%. Planned cuts would mean it would only be supplied “every two days,” said the director of the Autonomous Works Administrator Sanitarias (Aapos), Carlos Chumacero, on Friday.

In Oruro, the declaration of a “departmental disaster” is being analyzed due to the lack of water that has already affected llamas and alpacas and other native species that have begun to die, according to the government.

In the cities of La Paz and El Alto, local authorities are monitoring the levels of the various dams and preparing some contingency plans in case the lack of rain reduces the water reserves even further in the coming weeks.

The water crisis prompted the government of Cochabamba, a region in the center of the country, to declare a “departmental emergency.”

Likewise, some municipalities in the eastern region of Santa Cruz declared a “disaster” due to the drought.

Credit: EFE News Service

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