Photo © Andres Brenner

Video: Searching for the Kallawaya

Who are the medicine men behind the remedies at the La Paz Witches’ Market?

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By Andrés Brenner


18 Sep 2017 - 6 Minute Read


La Paz, Bolivia, is a must-see place, less developed than other parts of South America and with a fascinating mix of cultures.

I was curious about the La Paz Witches’ Market, which has become a major tourist attraction. Here, you can find mysterious potions to improve your love life, a frog charm to bring you success – even a llama fetus to sacrifice to Pachamama.

I was amazed by the idea of rituals to heal things like “fear.” But I wondered if it was all just a set up for tourists.

So, following a tip from the sellers at the Witches' Market, I traveled far into the Andes to find a genuine Kallawaya, or “herbalist traveler,” and learn the real story behind the magic.

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Winner of the World Nomads 2013 Travel Film Scholarship, Andrés is a co-founder of Meanwhile Productions.

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1 Comment

  • leslie said

    While I appreciate the interest in the healing work of these Bolivian people, the intrusiveness of the filmmaker is dismaying. He shows himself simply barging into their world as if they should want to give him something, offering nothing of his own that might benefit them, demonstrating no respect for their time and attention, traveling with an expectation that they will want to give him their time, be filmed, and have their story told to the wider world, without creating any relationship whatsoever first. This film represents of an imperialistic attitude that assumes all the world belongs to him and should be freely given to him simply for the asking—a pitfall that accompanies many travelers. Andres did not learn (or did not show in the film) anything about the "real story behind the magic" --instead simply demonstrates his ignorance about indigenous awareness of the causes of illness and return of health.

    This film demonstrates how to seek out remote people, intrude on their lives without respect, and-- if enough people do it--impact in ways that may disrupt or even destroy, just like colonists have done for hundreds of years. If this is what is about, it’s a sham, shame, and perpetuation of the insidious, self-centered, colonialist mindset.

    How about making some films that demonstrate traveling with respect, humility, deep listening, curiosity, and attempts to loosen habitual ways of thinking that limit one's understanding of how to be human?

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