MAMAN!MAMANi

La Paz, Bolivia – February 16, 2019

At first glance, the title of this blog post may seem a little odd.  It is a rendition of how the artist signs his works, MAMAN!MAMANi.  The first letter “i” is rendered upside down.

When we left our house at 09:00, it was a cool 54 degrees (12 degrees Celsius).  It was not foggy, but the clouds were quite low.  A bit of a breeze and a bit of drizzle made the morning all the cooler.

Our destination this fine morning was the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery.  I learned of the gallery the day before Valentine’s Day from our good friend Tia.  She and some of her friends had recently visited the gallery and met with the artist, Roberto Mamani Mamani.  I was intrigued by Tia’s description of both the work of Mamani Mamani and the historic area in which the gallery is located.  I suggested to Leslie that we should visit the gallery.  If we found anything we liked, we could buy it as our Valentine’s Day gift to each other.  She agreed, so we were set to visit.

Tia agreed to go to the gallery with us.  We met Tia on the street about a block from our house.  Just as we met her, a taxi passed.  Tia flagged down the taxi for us and we began our ride to the Teleférico Verde.  Our eight-minute ride to the Teleférico Verde Irpavi station cost us $15 Bolivianos (US$2.18).  That amount included a tip of $3 Bolivianos.

On the upper level of the Teleférico station, we boarded one of the gondolas and began our steep ascent up and over the San Alberto area of La Paz.  The San Alberto area has dozens of multi-million-dollar homes.  No doubt the owners directly under the Teleférico remain very unhappy that the public transportation constantly flies overhead.

As the Teleférico Verde crests San Alberto and begins to drop into the Obrajes area, the gondolas are at the highest point above ground.  My guess of the height is about 400 to 500 feet (122 to 152 meters).  This is not Leslie’s favorite part of the trip.  In addition, she was cold.  I assured her she would warm up when we began walking.

We rode the Teleférico Verde to the final station at Del Libertardor.  At that station, one can switch to the Amarillo line or take a short walk over to the Celeste line.  Our destination required us to walk the short distance to the Celeste.  Once on the Celeste line, we continued to the final station, Prado.  As an aside, the cost to build both the Verde line and the Celeste line was US$88,000,000 each!

Emerging from the Prado station, we walked a short distance uphill to Avenida 16 de Julio to hail a taxi.  After a minute or two waiting, a taxi stopped for us.  The driver was a very nice man.  I told him we wanted to go the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery.  At first, he did not know the location.  I showed him the address of Indaburo #710 esquina Jaén and he immediately began driving.  Traffic was a little heavier in this section of La Paz than it had been near our home.  The driver quoted a rate of $15 Bolivianos to get us to our destination.  When we arrived, Tia paid the driver $20 Bolivianos (US$2.90).

Immediately upon getting out of the taxi we saw the art gallery.  One cannot miss the building.  There are large murals painted on the building; undoubtedly done by Mamani Mamani.  The building sits at the southern end of Calle Jaén, where it makes a 90-degree turn to the east.  We walked into the gallery at about 10:00.

A man walks past the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery on Calle Jaén.
The north face of the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery building.

Walking into the gallery, one is immediately struck by the very colorful art works.  Everything in the gallery seems to pop out at the viewer.  As we walked through the gallery, one of the employees accompanied us and quoted prices of the various works about which we inquired.  He spoke very good English.  That made our communication easy.

I asked about one large work that caught my eye.  He said it was 5,000.00, I thought that might be in Bolivianos; but then he finished his sentence with the phrase, U.S. dollars.  I quipped that was way out of our neighborhood!  We settled on a much smaller painting and a painted stone frog.  We asked the employee if the artist was at the gallery.  He said no, but he thought he would arrive in about an hour.  We really wanted to meet the artist.  We paid for our items and said we would return in about an hour.  With that, at about 10:30, we began our stroll north on Calle Jaén.

The view north on Calle Jaén.
View from the Hostal Ananay entrance back to the gallery.

Calle Jaén is a pedestrian street.  There are no vehicles on the street.  It is intricately paved with cobblestones.  It is intricate because of the size of the stones used and the alternating patterns interspersed along the street.  The largest stones can be no more than four inches.  It must have taken a very long time to pave that street!

Not too far from the art gallery we spotted the Hostal Ananay.  We decided that would be the perfect place to stop for a coffee.  Walking through the door from the street, one is in a small hallway about 10 or 12 feet (3 to 3.6 meters) long.  At the end of the hallway, one is surprised by a cozy courtyard.  Across the courtyard from the hallway was a door to the café.  We walked in, sat down, and ordered our drinks.

The café was surprisingly large.  There were multiple tables scattered about, a stage set up for musicians, and multiple works of art.  Two art pieces caught my eye.  One was a very odd painting of Jesus Christ.  The painting showed Christ with three faces.  We learned later the piece is titled, The Trinity.  I guess that makes sense, but it was still nothing I would want to own.  I could not read the artists name.  The other piece I noticed I could see hanging in my house.  It was a wood carving of an indigenous Andean man playing a Bolivian pan flute.

A portion of the courtyard at Hostal Ananay.  The chain to the blue barrel is a method of directing rain water.
The Trinity, a painting in the Hostal Ananay.
A wood carving in the Hostal Ananay. It shows an indigenous man from the Andes playing a pan flute.

After our break, we continued our walk north.  We soon spotted a small art gallery.  We climbed the treacherous, no-handle-available stairs to enter.  Once inside, a nice young woman greeted us and asked if we spoke Spanish.  We answered, “a little.”  We asked if she spoke English and she responded similarly.  She began telling us, in Spanish, about the various items in the gallery.  One of the items that she made were sculptures of cholitas that are about one-inch tall.  We had to get one.  She also pointed out some refrigerator magnets.  Each magnet was a bottle cap with a scene painted inside.  She said they were made by her sister.  We bought a magnet with a cholita painted inside.  I was remiss, I should have asked her if I could have taken a photograph of her.  Oh well.

Leaving the gallery, I saw a sign on the wall noting that the Club Atletico Jaén, a football (soccer) team, was founded here in 2005.

A small art store along Calle Jaén.
Farther up the hill on Calle Jaén, looking south. A group of Asian tourists stopped to take photographs of the wooden terrace on the building.
Looking south on Calle Jaén.

Along Calle Jaén are multiple small museums.  We stopped in one.  The attendant said we needed a ticket to enter.  He said those tickets were available in the first museum at the end of the street.  Sure enough, at the T-intersection of Calle Jaén and Sucre is the Museo Costumbrista (Museum of Customs), where they did sell tickets for the museums.  Residents of Bolivian can enter for $8 Bolivianos (US$1.16) while foreigners pay $20 Bolivianos (US$2.90).  Tia and I were considered Bolivian nationals because we had our residency cards.  Leslie was considered a foreigner since she did not have her card.  The fee allows one access to four museums on Calle Jaén:

  • Museo Costumbrista Juan de Vargas
  • Museo Litoral Boliviano
  • Museo Metales Preciosos
  • Museo Casa de Pedro D. Murillo

I was disappointed with the Museo Costumbrista and the Museo Litoral Boliviano (I cannot translate this, but it seems to relate to the early history of La Paz) because they did not allow photography.  There were some very interesting and unique items in each museum I wanted to capture.  I did find a YouTube video for the Museo Costumbrista.  The 00:01:46 video shows some of the masks and costumes worn for the carnival celebration from the early 20th Century.  One may click here to view the video, Museo Costumbrista.

The Museo Litoral Boliviano had several dioramas depicting episodes in La Paz history.  Some of them were rather gruesome.  I have included some photos I found on the internet.

Related image

The above photo dramatizes the quartering of the Indian leader, Tupac Katari, some 237 years ago (credit the Bolivian Ministry of Culture and Tourism).

Image result for museo costumbrista la paz

The photo above is a diorama of the death of Pedro Domingo Murillo.  His house is on Calle Jaén.  It is now one of the museums (credit the newspaper La Region).

We opted to skip the final two museums because we were anxious to meet Mamani Mamani.  That ended up being a lapse in judgement.  The good news is our entry ticket is valid until August 22, 2019.

As we left the museum and began our walk down Calle Jaén, I saw a tile sign that provided the history behind this beautiful street.  It is named after Don Apolinar Jaén.  He was born in Oruro, Bolivia in 1776 and later executed on May 29, 1810 because he was involved in the revolution for independence.  He and others in his group are referred to as the Protomártires de la Independencia (martyrs of the independence).

The sign at the top of Calle Jaén.

I call skipping the other two museums a lapse in judgement because when we returned to the art gallery, we found out the artist was still not there.  We were assured he would be there soon.  We could have easily toured the other two museums.  Instead, we walked outside and sat on some benches to await his arrival.  Leslie and Tia opted for the sunny side of the street.  I was happy to stay in the shade.

Looking south on Calle Jaén.
Approaching the art gallery again.
Leslie and Tia relaxing on a bench.

My bench faced a building on which was the name, Residencia del Adulto Mayor “Maria Esther Quevedo.”  It translates to a retirement home or old folks’ home.  As we sat there, more and more elderly people came to take their place on a bench.  Some of the people we saw were disabled.  At least two walked with visually impaired canes.  Some of the elderly sat near us on the benches (Leslie and Tia finally moved to the shade).  The Bolivians are so polite; as each one sat near us, they greeted us with, “buenas tardes (good afternoon).”  We all responded in kind.  I busied myself with more photography…imagine that!

One of the doors on the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery.
Detail of one of the doors on the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery.
The Mamani Mamani Art Gallery has an odd shaped brick structure on the roof.
View of the art gallery from my bench.

In the photograph above, one can see a cross on the side of the nearby building.  It is La Cruz Verde, the green cross.  A plaque below the cross relates the following story.

The tradition is that in colonial times the alley – Calle Jaén today, was a dark place with constant appearances of supernatural beings and phenomena (ghosts, goblins, souls in pain, infernal noises of horse drawn carriages and chains dragging on the ground).  But, above all, there was the  presence of a condemned widow who seduced all the men who gathered drunk in the wee hours of the night to take them on a mysterious adventure. Then, the neighbors of this street, heirs of a deeply rooted Catholic faith, decided to place the green cross to scare away all the evil creatures that frightened them.

I thought it was an interesting story.

The Green Cross (la Cruz Verde) and the plaque with the story of the cross.
A man walking away from the gallery.
A cholita reading the sign in front of the art gallery.

It soon became obvious that the people were waiting for lunch at the home.  The door to the home was closed and locked.  A couple of men, over time, rang the bell and tried to gain entry.  One of the men, in fact, did gain entry after a lot of talking and continuing to step into the building.  At about 12:20, a woman from the facility opened the door and announced it would be ten minutes until the doors opened.  She opened the door again at 12:30 and said, “pase (come in).”  Interestingly, not one person seemed to rush to the door or even get up off the bench.  Finally, one by one, people made their way into the building.  As each one departed, they said, “buenas tardes” to us again.

As some of this was going on, Leslie walked back to the gallery to ask about the artist’s arrival.  She was told he was by San Francisco Church and that he would arrive momentarily.  Leslie came back to the bench to report and sit down.  As soon as she gave the report, a taxi arrived and Roberto Mamani Mamani emerged!  He greeted us all and walked with us to his gallery.

Roberto Mamani Mamani is from Cochabamba, born December 6, 1962.  He is Aymara, one of the indigenous peoples of Bolivia.  He is world-famous, having enjoyed exhibitions of his work in more than 50 locations, including Washington, D.C., Tokyo, Munich, and London.  As of 2017, he had made more than 3,000 paintings and nearly 70 series.  He is also well known for painting large murals on buildings.

Inside the gallery, he immediately turned over our painting and began writing and drawing on the reverse.  He wrote in Spanish, for Terry and Leslie, all the energy from the Andes, happy Valentine’s Day.  Below that he drew a rough sketch of a sun and moon.  He said I was the sun and Leslie was the moon.  Mamani Mamani is a very nice and genuine person.  It seemed he could not do enough for us to demonstrate his gratitude.  He gave us a small book documenting several of his works.  He also gave Leslie a ring that has one of his works under a bubble of resin.

Roberto Mamani Mamani signing one of his works of art.
Roberto Mamani Mamani signing one of his works of art.
Leslie and I with Roberto Mamani Mamani.
Leslie and I with Roberto Mamani Mamani.
Leslie and I with Roberto Mamani Mamani, showing the reverse of the work of art.
Leslie and Roberto Mamani Mamani. He is holding a painted frog (sapo).

For anyone planning to visit La Paz, it is really worth the time and effort to visit this quaint corner of town.

Our final view of Calle Jaén for the day.

We departed the gallery with all of our purchases in tow.  We hunted in vain for a taxi.  Everyone that passed already had passengers.  We walked about six blocks before Tia was able to hail a taxi.  It was just in time.  Just as we got into the taxi, it began to rain.

The traffic was absolutely nuts!  The traffic was barely moving.  To travel about eight blocks, it took nearly 20-minutes!  At one point, our driver actually set the emergency brake and turned off the taxi while we sat in traffic.  It is at times like that I am glad the taxis in La Paz do not rely on meters.  If we had been in New York City, I would probably have needed a line of credit to pay for the taxi ride.

Our driver let us out of the taxi about a block from the Celeste line.  We walked quickly in the rain to the station.  Then it was simply a repeat of our morning journey, just in reverse.  We were back home by about 15:00.

Alasitas

La Paz, Bolivia – January 24, 2019

On Thursday, Leslie joined me at the office.  The occasion?  Alasitas!!

Our Community Liaison Officer (CLO) coordinated a trip to the opening day of Alasitas.  Alasitas begins on January 24 every year.  As stated on the LAPAZLIFE site,

“Taking place just before Carnaval, Alasitas Fair, or Feria de las Alasitas in Spanish, is a month-long festival, where locals purchase miniature items to give to Ekeko, the Aymara god of abundance, in the hope he will bring fortunate and happiness to their lives”.

One can read more at LAPAZLIFE by clicking on this Alasitas link.

Before we left my office, Leslie and I huddled to agree on a strategy for our shopping.  We agreed we might buy one or two items and then just look.  After departing the market, we could decide if we really wanted anything else.  If so, we could return on another day.  That strategy held solid…until we arrived at the market!

At about 11:00, we made the short walk to the Saint George station of the Celeste Line of the Teleférico.  The Teleférico was very crowded.  No doubt we were not the only ones bound for Alasitas.  We waited for several gondolas before one had enough room for us to board.  Once on board, we sat back and relaxed for the ride to the Prado station, the end of the line.

Between the Open-Air Theater station and the Prado station, we “flew” over the Alasitas venue.  It did not take a rocket surgeon to see there were hundreds and hundreds of people in attendance.  Our path took us directly over the main entry to the venue.  We saw the official Alasitas opening ceremony was in full swing.

“Flying” in the Teleferico Linea Celeste, approaching the site of the Alasitas.
Our view of the venue as we “flew” on to the final station on the Celeste Line.

Arriving at Prado station, we disembarked and waited for the rest of our group.  When we were all accounted for, we began our walk.  CLO strategically selected the Prado station as our starting point because everything from there is downhill.  That is a huge benefit in this city of monstrous hills.

As soon as we walked under Calle Bueno, we saw the beginnings of the vendor stalls at the Campo Ferial Bicentennial, the venue for Alasitas.  At this far end of the venue, only a few of the vendors were open.  There were, however, many foosball tables and pool tables.  They were all undercover.  Many of the tables were in use.  I assume one must pay a fee to be able to use one of the tables.

Looking down the valley toward the southeast. Many of the vendor stalls on this end of the Campo Ferial Bicentennial were not open.
There were dozens of foosball tables along our route.
There were also several pool tables along the way.

Some of my colleagues at work had told me that there are usually miniature Teleférico gondolas for sale.  I knew I had to get one each of the green and blue gondolas.  I saw some hanging at one of the first booths at which we stopped.  There was a wonderful woman there.  She sold us the two gondolas.  As part of the sale, she provided miniature certificates for each one.  They are copies of certificates for each of the actual gondolas on the operating Teleférico.  She said she is an artist.  She made several of the items in the booth, including a green bus.  As we departed, she gave us a blessing in the Aymara language.  That is the language of one of the indigenous peoples of Bolivia.

This wonderful woman sold us the two miniature Teleferico gondolas, one green and one blue.

Our next stop was a booth with dozens of Ekekos of varying sizes.  Ekeko is the Aymara god of abundance.  He is the one the believers think will grant what is desired in their life.  Those desires are represented by the miniatures found at Alasitas.  We opted for one that is about six inches tall.  He will reside in our kitchen.  The young who sold the Ekeko also provided us with a cigarette.  Those are normally lit and placed in the mouth of Ekeko.  We decided it will just be by his ear.

A group of Ekekos for sale.
We purchased our Ekeko from this young man.

By this time, nearly noon, the main aisle was more and more crowded with people.  That is because many believe that they need to purchase their miniatures and have them blessed on the first day of Alasitas, literally at high noon.  For a blessing, one can go to a Catholic priest or an Aymara shaman.  It is customary to pay for the blessings.  The payment is probably around $5 Bolivianos (US$0.75).

The closer we got to the center of the feria, the more crowded things became.
A priest blessing some of the items purchased by a woman.

We veered off onto one of the side aisles.  The aisle was virtually empty of shoppers.  About halfway down the aisle was a vendor stall that had llama miniatures.  That particular stall also had a little girl that was beside herself, wanting an ice cream.  As soon as her mother gave her one, she was very content.  The little girl’s mother was very kind to help us find just the right llama.

While the main walkway was very crowded with people, the side areas were relatively open.
A very happy little girl, once she received her ice cream.
The little girl’s mother sold us a miniature llama.

I seem to be a sucker for color.  That was evidenced when we walked by a stall that had several Bolivian branded items.  In particular, some shot glasses with colorful leather holders caught my eye.  The young woman that helped me a lot of fun and very lively.

From this vivacious young woman, we purchased a set of Bolivian shot glasses.

At the end of the side aisle, I saw some beautiful chess sets.  I am not the best chess player in the world, nor do I have a collection of chess sets.  That changed today, the collection part, when I bought a chess set.  The particular set I bought pits the Spaniards against the Aztecs.  I probably got the European discount, which means I probably overpaid.  Regardless, I thought $250 Bolivianos (US$36) was very reasonable for the set.  My “collection” now includes that chess set and an agate set I bought when we lived in Islamabad.

The very kind purveyor of chess sets, among other things.

There was a booth that sold nothing but miniature food items that were refrigerator magnets.  We had to have some of those, including my favorite, a salteña.

Our next stop was a father and son booth that specialized in small grocery items.  In this case, small truly means small.  There were boxes of food that could not have been more than one-half inch tall.  I have no idea what we will do with them.  I guess we will just have them and love them.

This both, manned by a father and son, is where we found our miniature food packages.

Just down the way was a stall with all sorts of miniature construction items and tools.  Some of the tools were about three inches long.  However, I opted for the wooden toolbox.  This very small toolbox held eight small tools.  The tools are about one-half inch long.  The pliers actually work!  A miniature blue hardhat topped off my purchase.  The vendor tried to sell us miniature Academy Awards statues, Golden Globe statues, and a personal computer.  We thanked her but decided we had enough already.

This vendor concentrated mostly on miniature construction items.

One couple were selling miniature currency from around the world.  We knew these would be for sale.  A colleague from the office actually gave Leslie and I some miniature currency.  She said people frequently hand these out to strangers.  We had to buy a golden US$100 bill.

Money vendors. We bought a golden US$100 note.

After the currency purchase, I vowed to not buy anything else.  I finally remembered the well-intentioned strategy Leslie and I agreed upon; albeit late!

Since we were finished flinging money around like we had it, we decided to walk to the Teleférico and head back to the office.  As we walked through the crowd, heading downhill, we passed several Aymara shaman who were blessing items people purchased.  Part of the blessing entails smoke.  The smoke comes from wood, sugar, and something else.  We both thought the odor was quite pungent.  We did not stop for any blessings, opting instead for fresh air.

People at a table with a shaman to bless their purchases.
A shaman blessing some items.
Another shaman waiting for items to bless.

When we walked through the main entry, on our way out, the crowd seemed multiply.  Above the main entry is a very large Ekeko.  The sea of people seemed to go on forever.  We happened to be walking behind a group from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.  Many of them were carrying colorful gods eyes.  As we walked along behind them, we took the opportunity to hand out some of the miniature currency my colleague had given us.  The recipients truly seemed to enjoy receiving them.

Moving closer to the main entry, the crowds and the smoke increased.
A vendor specializing in Barbie clothes.
A woman selling miniature diplomas and certificates in an interview with local media.
Looking back toward the Ekeko at the main entry.
The crowd at the main entry.
Beginning our walk back to the Teleferico station, the crowd was still enormous.
The group carrying the gods-eyes are part of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The crowd of people seemed unending.
Hundreds of people walking toward the main feria grounds.

We finally got to a side road that led to the Teleférico.  Thankfully, it was not crowded with people.  However, there were several dozen Bolivian police standing in formation.  I am not quite sure why they were standing there.  Leslie and I took advantage of the opportunity and handed out the rest of our miniature currency.  Like the other recipients, they were happy to receive the notes.

A gathering of two or three dozen Bolivian police.

At the Open-Air Theater station, I stopped to take a photograph of the side of the station.  Since it is on the Celeste Line, the panels are various shades of blue.  I knew I needed such a shot for an upcoming photographers’ group competition.  I am not sure what the other photographers will think of the shot, but it is by far one of my favorites.

The side of the building at the Open Air Theater Station of the Celeste Line of the Teleferico.

We boarded and rode back to the Saint George station.  At the station is a beautiful mural.  The mural is only about two or three months old.  I have always meant to stop and take a photo.  Today, I stopped and took the photograph.

The mural at the Saint George Station of the Celeste Line. It celebrates 40 years of scholarships between Bolivia and Japan.

From there, we walked back to the office and had lunch.

When we got home that evening, we unwrapped all of our loot.  We are happy with it; although, are not sure what we will do with some of the items!

We thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to Alasitas.  For anyone traveling to Bolivia at this time of year, Alasitas is a must-see!

Our “loot” from Alasitas.
The Ekeko is definitely center stage.
In this wooden chess set, it is the Spaniards…
…versus the Incas. The detail and color of the set is amazing.

Meeting Our First Grandchild

Fruita, Colorado – November 21, 2018

Our first grandchild, Michael, was born at virtually the same time as when I landed in La Paz, Bolivia for the first time.  He was born while his father was at sea.  On Veterans Day; father, mother, and baby were finally reunited.

Shortly before Tyler returned from deployment, he said he and his family planned a trip to Colorado around the Thanksgiving holiday.  With that knowledge, I was able to make arrangements to leave work for a little over a week and head to Colorado.

The anticipation was enormous!  I had not seen my wife for nearly four months.  She had been in Colorado.  I had not seen Tyler, Hillary or the rest of my family for close to 15 months.  I had never met Tyler’s wife, Victoria, and, of course, I had only seen Michael in photographs.

A very comfortable, sleeping baby.

My countdown for my Colorado homecoming finally made it to mere hours as I sat at home on the evening of November 19.  My taxi was due to pick me up at about 00:15 on the morning of the 20th.

Right on time my taxi arrived.  I was tired because I had only dozed while waiting.  Regardless, I wheeled my luggage, laden with Bolivian gifts, to the curbside and placed it in the rear of the taxi.  The woman who was my driver spoke virtually no English.  But even with me being 90 percent illiterate in Spanish, we were able to communicate.  One of her first questions to me, in Spanish, was whether I wanted her to go via the Llojetta route or take the Autopista.  I said I did not care, it was up to her as the driver.  She selected the Llojetta route.

When we turned off of Avenida Costanera onto Avenida Mario Mercado we began our climb to El Alto.  We went up and up.  In fact, there seemed to be no end to up.  The only difference in our climb was when we encountered a speed bump or a sharp hairpin turn.  Other than that, it was all up!  Because of the steep road, much of that part of the journey was made in second gear.

Our house in La Paz is at 11,180 feet (3,408 meters).  The El Alto International Airport is at 13,300 feet (4,054 meters); quite an altitude gain.

We finally crested onto the top of the El Alto mesa.  There were still several more kilometers to go to get to the El Alto International Airport, but at least it was all fairly level.

It was around 01:00 when we arrived at the airport.  I paid my 200 Bolivianos (US$29), took my baggage, and went inside the terminal.  By 01:40, my check-in was complete.  Ten minutes later I was at my gate, waiting patiently for my 04:30 flight to Lima, Peru.  That flight was right on time.

About an hour and one-half later, the plane landed at the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru.  Since I was merely transiting Lima, I did not have to go through passport control.  However, I did have to go back through security screening.  I left the screening area after a very brief wait and made my way to Friday’s for breakfast.  I must have been hungry because it tasted so very good.

Departing the restaurant, I made my way to the gate for my flight to Orlando, Florida.  I arrived early.  I watched as the security and airline personnel set up another security screening area at the gate.  This is normal practice for a flight departing an international location, heading to a United States airport.  Once again, I had no issues and a very short wait for the screening.

Soon after the screening, the airline employees began to scan the passengers’ boarding passes and allow us onto the waiting bus.  When the bus was full, we were driven to the waiting Latam aircraft.  On board the plane, I settled into my seat and waited for the five and one-half hour flight to begin.  It ended up being a comfortable and uneventful flight.

Passing the Florida coastline on the way to Orlando.

Once I was off the plan in Orlando, Florida, I went to passport control.  As usual, that was a breeze.  I waited in the Customs area for my one bag to come off the plane.  My customs form, dutifully filled out in detail, rested in my pocket.  I lifted my bag from the carousel and went to the exit.  I did not see anyone collecting the Customs forms.  I asked a passing Customs officer to whom I should give my form.  She said they no longer use those forms…

To get to my next gate, I had to exit the terminal.  That meant I had to go back through a security screening.  Normally I have TSA Pre-Check status on my boarding pass.  The boarding pass issued by Latam in Bolivia did not have that notation as the lady at the TSA Pre-Check line pointed out to me.  She said I could go to a nearby kiosk and try printing another boarding pass.  I declined.  That ended up to be an error in judgement.

I entered the line for security screening.  This was the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving in Orlando, Florida.  By the way, Orlando is home to Disney World.  The screening area was absolutely packed with holiday travelers and many, many families sporting Disney World attire.  The line snaked back and forth for a distance at least equal to the steep road to El Alto.

I was sandwiched in the line between two of the Disney World families.  The family behind me had a child in a stroller.  I lost count of the number of times the stroller bumped into the back of my legs.  The family in front of me was a husband, wife, and two children in the eight-year-old range.  I am not sure just how much of their home they brought with them or how much of Florida they were trying to take back to their home; but I did not know TSA had that many plastic x-ray bins.  I pictured myself finally approaching the x-ray conveyor, looking wistfully at an automaton TSA employee, and merely shrugging my shoulders because there were no more bins in the entire zip code.  Somehow, additional bins did show up.  When I could finally approach the conveyor, I placed my items in the bin (note that word is not plural) and stepped through security.  At this point, I request the reader to stop, take a deep breath, sigh, and revel in my successful trip through the Orlando security checkpoint.  One may also revel in the fact that there was no bruising on the back of my legs from the stroller.

Quite blissful, I made my way to Ruby Tuesday for a well-deserved glass of sauvignon blanc and chicken sandwich.

My last flight of the day was to Dallas, Texas.  I easily boarded the plane and had a relatively quick flight to DFW.  The plane arrived in Dallas at about 23:05 Bolivian time.  I could not make it to my final destination because there were no more flights to Grand Junction that day.

I waited at the baggage carousel to collect my bag.  With my bag in tow, I walked to the lower level, called the Marriott for a shuttle, and waited to be shuttled.  I made it to the hotel at about 00:00 Bolivian time.  That meant I had been traveling for about 24-hours.  I was very glad to lie down and sleep.

Early the next morning I got back on a shuttle and went back to the airport.  I checked my bag, grabbed some breakfast, and found my gate, D14.  While I was sitting at the gate, I saw a plane arrive.  The plane stopped short of the jet bridge because the ground crew was not there to guide the plane.  After 10 or 12 minutes, the ground crew arrived and guided the plane to a proper stop.  Just as that happened, I received a text on my phone.  With about 45 minutes left before my flight was to begin boarding, the departure gate was changed to Terminal C.  That was disheartening.  However, it turned out to be ok because I did not have to go back through security.

A wishbone sculpture in one of the DFW terminals. It seemed appropriate for Thanksgiving!
The D14 jet-bridge at the DFW airport.
An American Eagle plane arriving at D14. I mistakenly thought this would be my plane to Grand Junction, Colorado.
The pilots waiting patiently for a ground crew to guide them to D14.
Stopping on the mark at D14.

At the new gate, I boarded the plane, sat back for an easy ride, and was in Grand Junction by 10:30 local time.  This was Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

Leslie and Hillary met me at the airport.  Soon we were in Fruita, Colorado, Lorraine’s home, the base of operations for this high-level visit.  I began eating my way across Colorado with some Gardetto’s Snack Mix, one of my favorite things on this planet.  We busied ourselves with last minute preparations for Tyler, Victoria, and, of course, Michael.

Enjoying time on the patio with Bella.
Mother and daughter.

The morning of Thanksgiving Day we drove to the airport to pick up the newest members of our family, Victoria and Michael.  We quickly caught a glimpse of the proud papa, Tyler, carrying our very first grandchild, Michael.  We very happily saw, met, and hugged our new daughter-in-law Victoria too.  It was so nice to have them at the same place on Earth as Leslie and me.

Once we were back in Fruita, poor Michael was passed around like a rugby ball…well, we did not toss him around; but he certainly found his way to many people at the house!  Hillary and Shane stopped by so, now the only couple missing was great grandma and great grand pa Juvera.  That was remedied the next morning when they arrived at the airport.  Suddenly Michael had two more fans to whom he could be passed.

Grandma and Michael.
Great grandma and Michael…oh, and Bella.
And this grandpa loves this boy!!
Great grandma J.
Great grandpa J.
Asleep after a feeding.
Auntie and Michael playing like a boss!
Just a little tired.
Grandma holding her dear, sweet grandson.
Time for his close-up.
If one wants a good selfie, don’t let the grandpa take it!!
Father and son.
Auntie Hillary with her newest nephew, Michael.

Since everyone was finally together, Friday was Bolivian Santa day.  I had brought gifts from Bolivia for everyone.  There was Bolivian chocolate for each family.  The guys received wallets, alpaca socks, t-shirts, key chains, a refrigerator magnet, and a Marine Security Guard Detachment coin.  Everything was from Bolivia.  The women received hand-woven, baby alpaca shawls.  The remainder of Friday was spent visiting with all of our family.

It was also Ugly Christmas Sweater day.  Hillary had purchased ugly Christmas sweaters for all of us.  I set up the tripod and we captured the moments.

Gifts from Bolivia and the happy recipients.  These are mantillas or shawls.
The family reunion photo with ugly Christmas sweaters provided by Hillary. From left to right is Lorraine, Victoria, Tyler with Michael, Terry (your humble writer), Leslie, Hillary, Shane, Joleen, and Claude.
Great grandma Joleen and great grandpa Claude joined in the photo.
Great grandma Lorraine joined in the photo.
Grandpa and grandma with number one grandson, Michael.
Modeling our ugly Christmas sweaters…

Saturday was a day for more visiting with relatives.  Early that morning, Tyler, Victoria, and I stopped at the Aspen Street Coffee Company to get some go-juice.  Later in the day, Tyler and I went to the barn to sort through some of his stuff.  In one of the boxes he found his baby blanket!  That is now 25 years old!  It seemed strangely appropriate now that Michael is on the scene.

Inside the Aspen Street Coffee Company in Fruita, Colorado.
The proud papa displaying his newly discovered baby blanket from a quarter-century ago!

Just as important was the preparation of our Thanksgiving meal.  That evening, with all of us gathered around the table, I took the opportunity to take a selfie of the group.  It may not be the best photograph, but it will forever mean a lot to me.  Michael is just off camera in his bouncy chair.

The Thanksgiving feast!

On an evening trip through the town center of Fruita, I was struck by the beautiful Christmas lights on display.  I had never seen that before.

The Christmas lights in downtown Fruita, Colorado looking west.
The Christmas lights in downtown Fruita, Colorado looking east.
A Christmas bicycle in Fruita, Colorado.

Sunday morning, Leslie and I took great grandma and great grandpa Juvera back to the airport for their return to Colorado Springs.

One morning in Fruita, it was cold and foggy.  I looked outside and saw there was beautiful frost on nearly everything.  That meant it was a great time to go outside with my camera.

View of a fence post with frost in Fruita, Colorado.
Fog, fence, trees, and a paddock in Fruita, Colorado.
Fog, fence, and trees in Fruita, Colorado.
Detail of frost on a top-rail of a fence in Fruita, Colorado.
Frost on the top-rail of a fence in Fruita, Colorado.
Fog as seen through a very frosty and somewhat symmetrical gate in Fruita, Colorado.
Detail of a very frosty and somewhat symmetrical gate in Fruita, Colorado.
Looking toward a barn gate in Fruita, Colorado.
Another frosty plastic hay bale tie in Fruita, Colorado.
A frosty fence at a horse paddock in Fruita, Colorado.
Detail of frost on a plastic hay bale tie in Fruita, Colorado.
Frost on a plastic hay bale tie in Fruita, Colorado.
Frost on a fence and weed in Fruita, Colorado.
Frost on the bare branches of a globe willow in Fruita, Colorado.
Detail of frost on the bare branches of a globe willow in Fruita, Colorado.
A frosty water spigot in Fruita, Colorado.
Frost, fog, and trees in Fruita, Colorado.
Frost on an evergreen tree in Fruita, Colorado.
Detail of frost on an evergreen tree in Fruita, Colorado.

Once the fog lifted, one could see that the Colorado National Monument had received some snow.  I was very picturesque as seen from Fruita.

A view of snow on the Colorado National Monument.
Looking toward the Colorado National Monument, one can see the Independence Monument.
A closer view of the Independence Monument.

Since Victoria had never been to Colorado, we had to take her to the Colorado National Monument.  At the entry station, the ranger told us no Desert Bighorn Sheep had been spotted that day; however, we should stay alert.  There was a chance we might see some.

We drove up to the visitor center, stopping periodically to view sights from the various overlooks.  At the visitor center, we stopped to go inside and explore.  We also stepped out to the Canyon Rim Trail to look down into the adjoining canyon.

Looking across the Colorado River Valley from the Colorado National Monument.
Tyler and Victoria at the Colorado National Monument.
A jet passing by the Balanced Rock formation in the Colorado National Monument.
A closer view of the Balanced Rock in the Colorado National Monument.
Pointing the way to the Canyon Rim Trail near the visitor center in Colorado National Monument.
A view of a cliff from the Canyon Rim Trail overlook.
A twisted cedar tree in Colorado National Monument.
Detail of the sandstone bricks used in the construction of the visitor center in the Colorado National Monument.
A red sandstone cliff near the visitor center of the Colorado National Monument.

Back in the vehicle we continued toward the East Entrance to the Colorado National Monument.  I was driving and focused on the road.  Suddenly Leslie shouted there was a sheep along side the road!  Sure enough, a Desert Bighorn Sheep ewe was lying beside the road, casually chewing her cud.  I stopped immediately.  Tyler, Victoria, and I piled out to take photographs.  Just as we finished, I saw another vehicle approaching.  They were slowing to take photos just as we had done.

A Desert Bighorn Sheep along the road in the Colorado National Monument.
A closer view of the Desert Bighorn Sheep in the Colorado National Monument.
There was an inch or two of snow in places at the Colorado National Monument.
Looking across the canyon to the Canyon Rim Trail.
View of the Independence Monument from Otto’s trail head in the Colorado National Monument.
A closer view of the Independence Monument from Otto’s trail head in the Colorado National Monument. The Grand Mesa is in the distance.
Snow, cedar, and pines in the Colorado National Monument.
Mountains in the distance as seen from the Colorado National Monument.
Detail of a cedar tree in the Colorado National Monument.
A dead cedar tree in front of a Mormon Tea plant in the Colorado National Monument.
Independence Monument and the view looking north and west from the Colorado National Monument.
A closer view of Independence Monument in the Colorado National Monument. The town in the background is Fruita, Colorado.

Continuing our eastward journey, I was surprised at how much snow there was on the road.  By the time we got to the East Entrance, the road was completely dry.

When we left the Colorado National Monument, we called Hillary and Shane to tell them we were on the way to the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita.  They met us there.  For the meager entry fee, a visit to the museum is a must if one is in the area.  The interpretive and interactive displays help put the prehistoric history of the area into perspective.

The truck outside the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colorado.
One of the displays in the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colorado.
In the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colorado. This is where the work of exposing fossils takes place.
A rather gruesome depiction of mealtime in the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colorado.
A depiction of a stegosaurus in the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colorado.

Our time in Fruita coincided with a full moon.  I was able to get a reasonably good photograph of the moon one night.  It reminded me of the photographs I took of the moon while we were stationed in Islamabad, Pakistan.

A full moon visible in Fruita, Colorado.

No trip to Fruita is complete without a visit to the Main Street Café in Grand Junction, Colorado.  When we go there, we always try to get the table that is in the display window.  The day we went, that table was open, so grabbed it quickly.  It had been eons since I had a milkshake.  I corrected that oversight with a strawberry milkshake.  It was absolutely everything I thought it would be!

Yep! That is a strawberry shake! You too can get one at the Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Ready for lunch at the Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado.
He just finished his lunch at the Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado.
A Marilyn Monroe advertisement in the Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado.
One of the “window display” seating areas in the Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado.
An art installation just outside of the Main Street Cafe in Grand Junction, Colorado. The cafe is visible in the background with the checkerboard sign.

After lunch, we walked along Main Street; stopping at the Main Street Minerals and Beads shop and then the Robin’s Nest Antiques and Treasures store.  That antique store is one of our favorite stops in downtown Grand Junction.

The Main Street Minerals & Beads shop in Grand Junction, Colorado.
The building housing the Main Street Minerals & Beads store in Grand Junction, Colorado dates from 1890.
Our favorite antique store in Grand Junction, Colorado. A Robin’s Nest of Antiques & Treasures.
A partial view of the Reed Building in Grand Junction, Colorado. It dates from 1908.
An artfully disguised utility box along Main Street in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Wednesday morning after Thanksgiving, I was up early as normal.  I could tell the sunrise was going to be good.  So once again, even though it was cold, I grabbed my camera and headed outside.  I think the results speak for themselves.

Looking across a paddock in Fruita, Colorado watching the sunrise.
A closer view of a lone tree in Fruita, Colorado during a sunrise. The Grand Mesa is visible in the distance.
A wider view across the paddock in Fruita, Colorado.
A lone tree in Fruita, Colorado silhouetted by the sunrise.
The sunrise was very pretty on this cold fall morning in Fruita, Colorado.
The home in Fruita, Colorado.
A globe willow tree in front of a barn in Fruita, Colorado.
Looking across a paddock in Fruita, Colorado toward the Colorado National Monument.

Later that morning we took Tyler, Victoria, and Michael to the airport so they could begin their 11-hour journey home.  They made it home about an hour late, but safe and sound.

When we returned from the airport, Leslie and I finished packing our baggage.  We were due to the leave Grand Junction the next morning.  We had so much stuff we actually had to ship some items to Bolivia to keep from having overweight baggage.

That next morning, we drove to the airport.  We left the vehicle in the parking lot for Lorraine and Hillary to retrieve later that morning.  We went inside the airport, checked-in, and went to our gate to await boarding.

We boarded and left on time.  It was a very smooth and uneventful flight to Dallas, Texas.

On final approach to the DFW airport in Dallas, Texas.

Once we were in Dallas, we had enough time to get breakfast at Chili’s.  It was particularly marginal, but it was food.

When we got to our gate, we only had a short wait before we boarded the American Airlines plane bound for Orlando, Florida.  Once again, that flight was comfortable and uneventful.  We had a row of three seats to ourselves, so we were able to spread out.

A happy passenger waiting to depart from DFW in Dallas, Texas.
While our plane was taxiing at DFW airport in Dallas, Texas, another plane was landing.
A runway marker at the DFW airport in Dallas, Texas. Our plane ultimately took off on runway 35L.
A Delta jet at the DFW airport beginning the takeoff roll.
The passengers on our plane at the DFW airport in Dallas, Texas waiting for the takeoff.
An American Airlines jet at the DFW airport in Dallas, Texas beginning its takeoff roll.
Another American Airlines jet at the DFW airport in Dallas, Texas beginning its takeoff roll.

The comfort ended at Orlando.  A wheelchair attendant was at the door of the plane to collect Leslie.  He pushed her to the desk at the gate, said he had to go clear the plane and left us there.  We did not quite understand that.  In all of our travels, once the wheelchair arrives, we are off to our next destination with no stops.

The young man finally returned and began walking with us down the concourse.  I asked to confirm that he knew where we were going.  He replied yes, to baggage claim such and such.  I said no, we had a connecting flight to Lima, Peru.  He stopped, checked his iPad and said we had to leave the secure area to check in with our carrier, Latam Airlines.  That was disheartening since I already knew how challenging the security screening was at Orlando.

Regardless, he got us to the Latam desk.  I showed our tickets to the woman at the counter.  She said we were all set and we could go to our gate.  Since Leslie and I had not originally planned to travel together, we had different itineraries.  That meant our seat assignments were not together.  I asked the woman if she could seat us together.  She flatly said no.  That surprised me.  She said we may be able to change seats at the gate.  I pointed out that Leslie needed assistance.  She told us to wait at a designated point and someone would take us to the gate shortly.

We waited at the designated spot for nearly ten minutes.  Finally, I asked another Latam employee how we were supposed to get to the gate.  Ultimately, they called someone and we began our journey to gate 82.

As we got to the security screening area, we entered the wheelchair assistance line.  I thought that meant we would be expedited through the line.  Boy was that an incorrect thought.  I could have sworn that some of the families in line wearing Disney World attire were the same families I had seen a week earlier.  Even though we were in a short and “fast” lane, it took an inordinate amount of time to get through security.

Departing security, our attendant got us to the gate reasonably quickly.  Just as we arrived, they started boarding.  By our way of reckoning, we just barely made it to our plane.

We boarded the plane.  Leslie took her seat at 18J, an aisle seat.  I continued to 26C, an aisle seat.  The boarding was rather chaotic.  I kept and eye on Leslie.  I saw the middle seat next to her remained open.  As it so happened, the middle seat next to me also remained open.  When it appeared boarding was complete, I asked one of the flight attendants if I could sit next to my wife.  She agreed, so we were able to sit together.

The flight from Orlando to Lima, Peru was uneventful, but lengthy.  At only about five and one-half hours, it was certainly not the longest flight we have taken, but it is still a long time to be cooped up in an aluminum cigar.  We eagerly awaited the in-flight service and a glass of wine…wait a minute…Latam airlines does not serve alcohol…what?!?!  We may never fly them again…

I was ever hopeful that when we arrived in Lima, we would have enough time to go to Fridays and get something to eat and drink…wrong.  The airport was extremely busy.  We made it to our next gate with about 20-minutes to spare.  The only good thing is I asked the gate attendant if Leslie and I could sit together.  She moved us to the front of the plan, row 2, and seated us side by side.

The pilot making preparations to depart Lima, Peru on the way to La Paz, Bolivia.

The flight from Lima to La Paz, Bolivia was one of our shorter flights.  We arrived in La Paz at about 03:15 Bolivian time.  One of the Embassy employees was there to meet us and help us through customs.  When we had retrieved our luggage and got in the vehicle, it was nearing 04:00.

Our driver selected the Autopista, a not-quite-finished highway.  WOW!  After taking that, if another driver ever asks if I want to take the Autopista or the Llojetta route, it will definitely be the Autopista!  It was much quicker, fewer hairpin turns, no speed bumps, and travel was at a reasonable speed.

We made it home at about 04:30, after nearly 24-hours of travel.  We had that long-awaited glass of wine and crashed into bed.  We were together and home!!

A Great Day for the Dead

La Paz, Bolivia – November 2, 2018

This was the first time I ever saw Dia de los Muertos first-hand.  I chose the La Paz Cementerio General for my visit.  I was a little apprehensive because of the unknown and the fact that I was going by myself.  Another reason for my apprehension was the odor.  One of my work colleagues told me there was a foul odor at the cemetery because the tombs were not air tight.  As an ex-cop, used to dealing with bodies that had, shall we say, “ripened,” I knew exactly what odor was being described.  Spoiler alert – I did not encounter any noxious odors at the cemetery.

Dia de los Muertos (the day of the dead) is a traditional holiday in many Latin American countries.  It is a day for remembering a family’s dead; but, more importantly, it is a time of celebrating the family members return from the afterlife for a visit.  To that end, there are many offerings made by the family to entice the family member to visit and then to ease their return to the afterlife.  The visits are expected between noon on November 2 and noon on November 3; however, those times are not rigid.

A family can expect visits at either the tomb or grave of their loved one or at the family’s own home.  In either location, family members place photographs and other items which the dearly departed loved during life.  Additionally, things the loved one liked to eat or drink are also laid out as offerings.  Those items can include bread, cookies, sweets, food, soup, soft drinks, beer, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.; virtually anything the loved one enjoyed.

The bread used for the Dia de los Muertos is interesting because of its many variations.  One of the more popular shapes is the t’antawawa, an Aymara word meaning baby bread.  A t’antawawa is in the approximate shape of a baby’s body with a painted, ceramic face/head.  They can range in size from very small breads or cookies, to nearly adult life-size.  The bread can also be in the shape of animals such as horses.  Other bread shapes include the traditional dinner roll size, round loaves, ladders (to aid with travel to and from the afterlife), and crosses.  It appears the shape is only limited by the maker’s imagination.

A work colleague shared with me that when setting up the offerings at home, their place of choice; they receive as many as 150 family members (living) over the course of the holiday.  That is a lot of people to just have drop by a home.

With that bit of preface, allow me to share my experience of Dia de los Muertos.

I walked out my front door at 07:00.  Green, Sky Blue, White, Orange, and Red.  Those colors have nothing to do with the holiday nor are they colors I saw when I walked outside.  Those colors just happened to be the five; that is correct, five, Teleferico lines I had to ride in order to get to the Cementario General.

While on the Orange Line of the Teleferico, I passed over the “illegal” cemetery, Cementerio la Llamita.  I do not know if it is in fact an illegal cemetery.  If it is illegal, by deduction, that means that the regulations for burial are less strictly enforced.  Therefore, it is such “illegal” cemeteries that may be the cause of my colleague’s comment regarding odor.  I quickly tried to make a photograph which is why the focus is not quite spot on.

A partial view of the “illegal” cemetery as seen from the Orange Line of the Teleferico.

At the end of the Orange Line, I changed to the Red Line.  I only had one stop to go to be at the Cementerio General.  I got off the Red Line and walked out of the Teleferico building.  I noticed right across the street was an entrance to the cemetery.  I do not believe that entrance is normally in use, just on special days.  Approaching the entrance, I saw a few small flower stands.  Many cemetery visitors stopped to buy some flowers before entering.

A secondary entry to the Cementerio General (General Cemetery) in the northwest portion of La Paz.

The Cementerio General is the main, and quite large, cemetery in La Paz.  The exterior wall of the cemetery is nearly 1.5 kilometers long (4,389 feet or 0.83 mile).  That means the area covered by the cemetery is nearly 10 hectares (24 acres).  On the grounds there are dozens and dozens of columbaria, some with as many as three levels.  The “population” of the cemetery must be in the tens of thousands.

At the gate, Bolivian National Police searched the bags of everyone entering.  As soon as I made it past that checkpoint, I faced multiple columbaria.  At the end of the columbarium closest to me I saw a mural with two painted skulls.  Then I noticed that nearly every columbarium had a mural on the end, even the columbaria that had three levels.  Much of the art was stunning.  I did not photograph every mural, but I did capture a lot.  At this point, the narrative will cease so the reader can view all of the murals I captured.  At the end of the mural photographs, the narrative continues.

My first view of artwork on the end of a columbarium at the Cementerio General. The artist is Ñatinta, completed in 2017. The other name appears to be Llukutter.
A skull mural at the end of cuartel (barrack) 53. This one is also by Ñatinta, completed in 2016. The other name appears to be S. Cuello.
The artist of this mural appears to be Tuer. The work appears to have been completed in 2018.
An intricate design surrounding a skull. This was done by Osek. It appears to have been completed in 2018.
Psychedelic skulls by Nando Pantoja and Angela in 2018.
A skull of a cholita by Pez Dani, probably 2018.
A collection of colorful flowers and plants, possibly by Tekaz. It was probably completed in 2018.
This work shows singers serenading at the tomb of a young man. Note the t’antawawa’s below the young man’s face. The style seems reminiscent of Picasso’s Guernica. It is possibly by TViore in 2017.
A woman and a young child by an unknown artist.
Some of the largest artwork at the Cementerio General is logically located at the end of the three-story columbaria.
This cholita and skull appears to be done by JP Zdas.
This portrait is by Ricardo Akn in 2018.
She seems to be watching all those who approach.
This three-story piece is done by an unknown artist.
Another psychedelic skull by Ñatinta in 2017.
The banner reads, “no tears for the final rest.” At the very bottom, it reads, “for all of the saints who rest in La Paz.” The artist’s initials appear to be TZV.
Angels with skulls and barbed wire halos. The artist is unknown.
A young person with flowers. The artist is possibly Stfil.
An unusual design by Tekaz.
A stylistic skull surrounded by what appear to be cocoa leaves. The artist is Boos.
Flowers at the end of a columbarium by Ciclope.
A heart. The bottom reads, “the measure of life.” The artist is JP.
A skull at the end of a columbarium. The artist is Decoma.
A neon cholita. The artists are Huyllas and Natinta, done in 2018. The bottom left reads, “your voice will not be erased…my little soul.”
Another flower arrangement by Tekaz.
Some stylized coyotes. The artist is unknown because the name is partially obscured by the ladders.
Another view of the psychedelic skulls by Nando Pantoja and Angela in 2018.
Removing a mask by Mamo and Ñatinta from 2017.
Above this woman’s face are the words to a song often sung during the All Saints celebration. The artist is Willka in 2018.
Flowers growing from a bird held by a woman. The artist is Giova in 2018.
A skull with sunglasses and a hat. The word that continues from one columbarium to the other reads, “perpetual.” The artist is Ñatinta from 2016.
A child playing a violin. The artist is la Gabu.Z.
A zintangle woman? The artist is Nona.
A Bolivian astronaut skull. The artist is unknown.
A blue skull. The artist is Alme in 2018.
Birds and a stylized face. The artist is unknown.
A cholita skull complete with the traditional braids. The artist is BLK from 2015.
A cholita from 2017. The artist is unknown.
Three couples from 2016. The artist is unknown.
A contemporary view of children/teens from 2016. The artists are Bufón81 and Afta17.
A young person’s memories of La Paz from 2017. The artist is Bufón81.
Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The artist is unknown.
A stylized angel embracing a woman above a woman on a bed of skulls. The artist is unknown.
A landscape. The artist is unknown.
A blue skull and candles. The artist is unknown.
A mummy with an apple. The artist is unknown.

Some of the above photograph captions contain the word “cholita.”  That deserves some explanation.  Cholita refers to the women of the indigenous Aymara and Quechua tribes.  In the not too distant past, cholita was a pejorative term.  However, today it has regained a certain popularity and resurgence in use.  The cholitas are very distinctive with their bowler hats and long hair braids.

Looking down the aisles between the columbaria, I could see far into the distance.  They seemed to go on forever.  The columbaria here in La Paz look much different than those one might see in the United States.  In the U. S. each tomb is covered by an engraved headstone bearing the name and pertinent details of the person in the tomb.  In the Cementerio General, each tomb has a glass door, usually with a small padlock.  Behind the glass is a void of some eight to ten inches before the masonry seal on the tomb.  On the masonry seal is the name and pertinent details of the person in the tomb.  Often the details include a photograph of the person.  The remainder of the void is filled by offerings or representative items of things the person enjoyed in life.  In some instances, there are metal holders on either side for vases of flowers.

Several very large columbaria vanish into the distance.
The inscription above this tomb reads “Dear Dad.” The offerings inside are things the deceased enjoyed; in this case, bread, cigarettes, Coca-Cola, and a clear beverage.
This father was obviously a huge Bolivar fan.  Bolivar is a professional futbol team in Bolivia.
A man on a ladder tending to the tomb of a loved one.

The tallest, single-story columbaria I saw contained tombs seven high.  Visiting family must use ladders to reach the higher tombs.  With the aid of the ladder, family open the glass door, remove dead flowers and old offerings.  Once clean, new offerings are placed into the tomb and the glass door closed.

A view to the east from the Bolivian Police columbarium.
Several empty tombs at the Bolivian Police columbarium.
Looking to the west atop the Bolivian Police columbarium.
A unique cross placement on a columbaria.

To place a loved one in a tomb at Cementerio General, there is an initial fee and then annual fees thereafter.  If the annual fees are not paid, after a period of about three years, the remains are removed, cremated, and dealt with by cemetery personnel.

I did see a few graves in the ground with headstones, but that was by far the exception, not the rule.  The columbaria were definitely the norm within the Cementerio General.

I ultimately made my way to the main entrance of the cemetery.  That is where the church is located.  The church was nice inside, but it was not ornately decorated.  Of particular note were the statue of the Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus and another area with a depiction of Jesus in the tomb.

View toward the altar of the church in the Cementerio General.
A statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in the church at the Cementario General.  The statue is known as the Viren de Copacabana.
A stained glass cross on the west side of the church at the Cementario General.
A depiction of Jesus in the tomb in the church in the Cementerio General.

Leaving the church, I saw a display containing many of the items that families might bring to the tombs of their loved ones.  I was immediately drawn to the t’antawawas, probably because I had been given a t’antawawa cookie the day before by a work colleague.  Those on display ranged from cookie-size to some made of bread that were approaching three-feet in length.  At the display, there was even a t’antawawa made in the shape of a horse.  There were other bread designs including one that reminded me of a huge pretzel, bread crosses, and bread ladders.  The display was partially framed by very large onion plants.  Those and large sugar cane stalks are often used by the families as decorations at the tombs.

A display of some typical items brought to the tombs of the departed in the Cementerio General.
The display of offerings is locate just outside the church in the Cementerio General.
A detail of some of the offerings typically brought to the cemetery. Note the t’antawawas on either side of the cross. Also note the t’antawawa in the shape of a horse in the upper left.
The offerings can also include beverages and food.

I sat down at a bench near the display.  I stayed there for quite a while, watching the people streaming into the cemetery.  Many of them stopped to view the display, some even taking photographs like I did.  Others merely walked on by, destined for the family tomb.  While I sat there, I saw a couple of men dressed in medium blue clothing wearing hard hats.  One in particular made frequent eye contact with me.  It dawned on me that they were probably masons, available for hire by the families to make any needed repairs to tombs.  I ultimately approached one of the men.  He confirmed he was in fact a mason.  He was waiting to be hired by an incoming family.  He was kind enough to allow me to make his photograph.  Unfortunately, I was not thinking, so I failed to get his name.  Regardless, he was very nice.

Since this was at a main entry point, many people stopped to view the display of offerings.
People looking at the display.
Some people simply walked by the display without stopping to look.
The Bolivian Police checked all packages at the entry points to the Cementerio General.
This mason was kind enough to allow me to make his photograph. I neglected to ask his name.

After my rest on the bench, I continued walking through the cemetery.  I did find a large map of the grounds.  It is truly astonishing just how many columbaria are at the cemetery.

A map of the Cementerio General.

In the eastern portion of the cemetery I noticed several tombs that had QR codes.  If one captures the code with a smartphone, information about the person buried there is displayed.  I did not do that, but I did come across two very large tombs that were obviously of revered Bolivians.  The first was the tomb of Carlos Palenque Avilés, 1944 – 1997.  He was a famous Bolivian singer and politician.  The second large tomb was that of Germán Busch Becerra, 1903 – 1939.  He was a military officer and ultimately a President of Bolivia.

The tomb of Carlos Palenque Avilés in the Cementerio General.
The tomb and monument to Germán Busch Becerra.
A mausoleum in the Cementerio General.
A columbarium with an angel statue in the Cementerio General.
These columbaria do not seem to be so crowded.
The columbarium at the rear reads, “Union Workers Welfare Society, founded on the first of May, 1909.
Two people carrying a ladder while the Teleferico moves nonstop overhead.
An art deco styled angel in the Cementerio General.
Stained glass crosses at a mausoleum In the Cementerio General.
The oldest tomb I saw in the Cementerio General. Note the QR code in the lower right.
A columbarium with high-ranking Bolivian army officers in the Cementerio General.
Various sizes of ladders propped up beside a columbarium in the Cementerio General.
Ladders are strategically placed throughout the Cementerio General.

I found a mausoleum dedicated to those that had fought in the Acre Campaigns.  That was a border dispute between Bolivia and Brazil at the turn of the 20th Century.  Bolivia was the victor in the fighting.

The exterior of the columbarium for the Benefit Society of the Country for those in the Acre Campaigns.
The interior of the columbarium for the Benefit Society of the Country for those in the Acre Campaigns.
Stairs leading to more columbaria.
The columbaria seem to stretch on forever.
Ladders at the ready at the end of a columbarium.
A small, tiled columbarium.
The access alleys to the columbaria begin to fill up with people.
The sun coming over the edge of the roof of a columbarium seems to beckon one to heaven.
Looking through the ground floor level of a three-story columbarium.
The mausoleum of the Dr. Abigail Mendoza family.
The stained glass of Mary and Baby Jesus in the mausoleum of the Dr. Abigail Mendoza family.
Detail of the stained glass of Mary and Baby Jesus in the mausoleum of the Dr. Abigail Mendoza family.

In all of my wanderings in the cemetery, I never saw any sadness.  I never saw any family members weeping.  The Dia de los Muertos seemed to be a more joyous than sad occasion.  I did find out that families can hire people to cry at the tomb.  I did not personally witness that.  However, I did see families that hired musicians to play and sing at the tombs.  One of the more noteworthy groups were about 10 boys playing drums and Bolivian pan flutes.  They really did a good job and amassed quite a crowd of onlookers.  I did come across another group of boys with drums, but they did not seem to be as polished.  In fact, a woman walking by the group actually covered her ears.

A group of young boys performing at a tomb in the Cementerio General.
The group of boys performed in front of a tomb bedecked with offerings of bread, fruit, and drink.
One woman’s music is another woman’s noise.

During my walk, I stopped at one point when I saw a man and his young son.  The man was struggling with one of the ladders.  I asked him if he needed assistance.  He politely declined.

A man and his son renting a ladder.
A mausoleum in the Cementerio General.
One of the more narrow areas between columbaria.
There never seemed to be a shortage of ladders.
A young girl running around while musicians are playing in front of a tomb.
A woman taking a selfie atop the ladder in front of her loved one’s tomb.
Women working together to clean out a tomb in preparation for newly placed offerings.
The offerings consisted of bread, t’antawawas, onions, fruit, and a drink in a thermos.
Another of the endless aisles of columbaria.
A family preparing to go up the ladder with some offerings.

Strategically placed throughout the cemetery are sinks and water spigots.  The visitors use these stations to clean items from their loved one’s tomb.  Most often the items cleaned are flower vases.  Near each sink are rubbish bins in which the old flowers are placed.  Workers come by periodically to police the area and take the rubbish to large 30-yard trash bins.  In turn, those are removed from the cemetery by large trucks from the local trash service.

People washing vases while an employee collects the discarded flowers.
Discarded flowers were everywhere.
A man and a mason discussing needed repairs at a tomb.
Ladders at the ready.
A mason with his tools of the trade rounding the corner.
A woman waiting beside a ladder.
Walking to the tomb with offerings.
A woman walking with bags of offerings.

After all of my wanderings in the cemetery, I decided it was time to head home.  I walked to the main entry to the cemetery.  Not far from there was an exit.  As I walked onto Avenida Baptista I noticed the street was closed for the holiday.  There was a real carnival atmosphere.  One of the first things I saw was an art deco building that reminded me of a building in Wellington, New Zealand (see the posting Wellington Museum).

This art deco style building is across the street from the Cementerio General.
Avenida Baptista on the front side of the Cementerio General.

There were a couple of zebras walking on the sidewalk.  The zebras are actually people in costume.  The La Paz Zebras were born as a way to help regulate traffic and avoid pedestrian/vehicle mishaps.  The Zebras have been around since 2001.  As I walked past, they both said buenas dias!

A rare sighting of two Zebras in front of the Cementerio General.

One of the streets heading off from Avenida Baptista had what seemed like dozens of stands of BBQ and other delicious smelling foods.  I wanted to try some, but I did not since Mr. E. Coli had just visited me.  While on that street, I ran into a shoe shiner.  Many of the shoe shiners keep their faces covered because they do not want their friends and family to know that is what they do to earn money.

Directly across from the main entry to the cemetery is a small mall with nothing but flower shops.  While I was there it was doing a booming business.

A panorama of Avenida Baptista in front of the Cementerio General.
Two women walking toward the Cementerio General.
The young man in the light blue jacket is a shoe shiner.
Some flowers for sale across from some wonderful smelling BBQ.
The main entry to the Cementerio General.
The church framed by the entry arch.
Part of the flower market directly across the street from the Cementerio General.
People walking by Rebecca’s Flower Shop.

I began walking east along Avenida Baptista.  Luckily, it was all downhill so I did not have to grapple with gravity very much.  As I noted above, the street was closed to traffic.  Instead of vehicles, the street was packed with vendors of every ilk; ladies’ lingerie, plasticware for children, handmade wooden items, DVDs, ice cream, fruit, etc.  It was varied and noisy as some vendors shouted out what was available.  The parts of the street that were not covered by vendors were choked by pedestrians.  I can only imagine the scene later in the day when it would no doubt be busier.

An interesting looking building on Avenida Baptista.
Selling colorful plasticware for children.
A woman selling watermelon slices.
A man and his ice cream cart.
A woman waiting to make an ice cream cone for the man and his daughter.
A cholita perusing the wares.
A girl in a red dress.
A cholita walking through the market.
A woman and young girl in the market.
Strolling through the market.
A young woman donning her hat.

At the Garita de Lima park roundabout, I stopped to take in the sights.  That is where I saw the Evangelical Baptist Church and the Hospital La Paz.

Two artificial flower vendors at the street market.
A view downhill from the roundabout at the Garita de Lima park on Avenida Baptista.
The Evangelical Baptist Church across from the Garita de Lima park on Avenida Baptista.

Departing the Garita de Lima park roundabout on Max Paredes, I saw something that very much reminded me of home, the kitchen gadget salesman.  A man set up a portable table in the street.  The edges of the table top held about four dozen oranges.  In the middle of the table there was a pile of different colored plastic gadgets.  The salesman, speaking loudly and rapidly, demonstrated how one could insert the gadget into an orange and easily obtain the juice.  He had several people standing around watching his demonstration.  I am not sure if he sold any to that crowd.

A juicing device salesman on Max Paredes.
The street market met vehicles just east of the Garita de Lima park on Max Paredes.
The mix of vehicles and pedestrians on Max Paredes. Note the van has the Cementerio General as one of its destinations.
It is tight quarters walking this section of Max Paredes.

Shortly after passing the kitchen gadget salesman, the street opened to traffic once again.  At that point of Max Paredes, there were still vendors; however, they were relegated to the sidewalk or curbside.  This area is where the food market begins.  It is set up in specific sections.  There are sections for vendors selling fruits, vegetables, cooking spices, lentils, fish, and meat.  There were even a couple of fabric vendors thrown in for good measure.  Between the vendors, pedestrians, and vehicles, one has to really be careful while walking.

A vegetable stand on Max Paredes.
The vendor points and provides answers to a patron’s questions.
This woman was advertising in a loud voice what she had for sale.
Various cooking spices for sale.
A woman preparing a fish for a customer.
A woman at a meat stand along Max Paredes.
Another fish stand on Max Paredes.
Meat for the carnivore.
Yet more meat available near the Max Paredes roundabout.
Women selling lentils along Max Paredes.
Waiting for a customer.
The fruit section of the Max Paredes market.
A cholita walking through the fruit section.
All the bananas one could possibly want.
The vendor tried to entice the young girl with the dog to buy some bananas.
A cholita at a fruit stand on Max Paredes.
The fabric section of the market on Max Paredes.
One of the many Dodge buses operating in La Paz.
This bus is known as The Prince.
This bus is known as Crazy Boy.
The statue in the roundabout at Max Paredes.

After walking nearly a mile (1.3 kilometers), I found Sagarnaga, the street for which I had been searching.  That street would take me to the Witches Market and the Basilica of San Francisco.  I was quite happy that my walk all the way from the cemetery to the Basilica was downhill.

In the Witches Market, I did a little shopping.  I found several touristy items that I could just not live without.

The point where Sagarnaga narrows.
The cobblestone Sagarnaga descends to the San Francisco Basilica.
An old building on Sagarnaga.
Sagarnaga continues downhill from the Witches Market.
Traffic and pedestrians share Linares.
A yarn covered light-pole in the Witches Market.
A taxi preparing to turn from Melchor Jimenez onto Linares in the Witches Market.
A newly completed mural on Melchor Jimenez in the Witches Market. The artist is Tikay Marsh Aner.
Searching for bargains in the Witches Market.
A llama mural in the Witches Market. The artists are Sebollin, Jonatan, Marbot, and Ahau Flamma.
A display of items for sale in the Witches Market.
A typical tourist shop in the Witches Market.
A mural in the Witches Market. The artist is unknown.

When I finished shopping, it was lunch time.  I was not really that hungry, but I did want to sit down for a while.  I found Luna’s Restaurant Coffee Pub.  I asked the man that greeted me at the door if he had cold beer.  He said he did so I immediately sat down!  I continued to talk to him as he came by my table intermittently.  I discovered he was Tomas Luna, the owner.  We had a nice conversation.  He was kind enough to allow me to make his photograph.

While sitting at Luna’s, I received two unexpected “guests;” Hillary and Leslie.  They called me.  They were both anxious to hear about my Dia de los Muertos activities.  I told them a little bit, but added that they would have to wait for my blog to get the rest of the story.

An ice cold Paceña cerveza at Luna’s Restaurant Coffee Pub.
Tomas Luna, the owner of Luna’s Restaurant Coffee Pub.
Luna’s Restaurant Coffee Pub.
Unexpected guests while I was having my beer.
Tomas Luna, the owner of Luna’s Restaurant Coffee Pub.
The owner at the door to his restaurant, Tomas Luna.
San Francisco Basilica is visible in the distance.
Street level view of a passing van.
Sagarnaga was virtually empty because of the holiday.

From Luna’s, it was just a few blocks down to the Basilica San Francisco.  The last time I was there it was after my CLO walking tour (see the Witches Market post).  That time, the Basilica was not open.  This time, to my surprise, it was open.  I walked inside.  Immediately I saw some very large signs.  I thought they said that one was prohibited from taking photographs during mass.  A mass was in progress, but I could tell it was at the very end.  I heard the priest give the final blessing and the people responded.

Soon the people were walking to the back of the Basilica to exit.  That is when I began taking photographs of the very intricate and beautiful altar.  After about four or five clicks, I suddenly found myself in the company of a Bolivian National Policeman.  He was not amused.  He said something in Spanish and pointed furtively to one of the signs.  In my best Spanish, I tried to tell him I thought I could take photos when mass was over.  He simply pointed at the sign again.  I said I was very sorry and beat a hasty retreat to the exit.

The altar at San Francisco Basilica.
The altar at the San Francisco Basilica.
The choir loft at the rear of the San Francisco Basilica.

The last portion of my journey was several blocks downhill from the Basilica to the Light Blue line of the Teleferico.  Between that line and the Green line, I made it back to my neck of the woods and ultimately home.  I arrived at my house at about 14:00.

A mural at the Mercado Camacho near the Celeste Line of the Teleferico.

Next year, I will return to the cemetery.  I will probably go at a different time to see how that may change my experience.  I thoroughly enjoyed my day.

A skull along via 33. The artist appears to be Zamir. The brilliant color indicates it was completed in 2018.