Friends in Bolivia


A beautiful inland sea called Lake Titicaca lies high in the mountains between Peru and Bolivia. This lake is 12,500 feet high and is the world’s highest lake that has steamships traveling on it. There are many legends told about Lake Titicaca. A favorite story of the children in Bolivia is about a great monster with three heads who used to live in the lake.

Bolivia, named after Simon Bolivar, is called an Andean nation because it is found high in the Andes mountains of South America. It is located almost in the center of South America and is surrounded by Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, and Peru.

Years before the Spanish came to this country, it was ruled by the Inca Indians. Many years before the Incas ruled, there was another great nation of Indians known as Collas. Many of the people of Bolivia today are descendants of these Indians.

Most of the people in Bolivia live in mountain cities and villages that are 12,000 feet high. They are accustomed to this high altitude, but visitors to Bolivia are likely to suffer from soroche (mountain sickness).

The capitol city of La Paz is located on a high plateau called altiplano. Many Spanish people live in the large cities, but most of the families of Bolivia are Indian farmers who live in houses made with adobe bricks. They grow potatoes, corn, beans, and grain.

Bolivian children learn very young to help raise sheep and llamas. The sheep provide mutton to eat and wool for clothing and bedding. In addition to their meat and wool, the llamas supply leather, tallow for candles, and fuel with which to cook. They also carry heavy loads on their backs.

Llamas are often difficult to manage. They will not carry more than one hundred pounds and are likely to lie down and groan if they think their load is too heavy. Llamas are suspicious of strangers and many spit, bite, and kick if strangers come near.

The Indian people like to help each other. Families always invite their friends and relatives to help when they till the land, plant the seeds, or harvest the crops. Before the work begins, everyone gathers for a prayer. After the work is done, they enjoy a big feast, followed by dancing and games.

One special festival is called a chuño fiesta. Chuño is made of dried, frozen potatoes. Several families put their potatoes together and let them freeze during the night. After the potatoes thaw the next day, there is music and the people dance on the potatoes. This squeezes the liquid out so the potatoes can be dried. Chuno is a favorite food in Bolivia.

[illustration] Illustrated by Cheryl Torney