Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Taitas of Plaza San Victorino


Few places in central Bogotá are as colorful and perpetually active as the Plaza San Victorino, the great shopping district, with its illegal street vendors, llamas, prostitutes and medicine men (and women).

Those traditional healers, or taitas, belonging to the Inga indigenous people who live in Putumayo Department, appear incongruous amidst the plaza's vice, commercialism and quadripeds.

But the taitas, whom you see hanging out in small groups wearing striped purple ponchos with bunches of beads around their necks. However, these taitas aren't pristine: many appear to be alcoholics, and their fortunetelling is quite commercialized. Today, I first talked to a woman taita and then a male one, who gave me a small bracelet which he dipped in yagé (a hallucinogen also known as ayahuasca) and promised would fix my troubles - for a price: 10,000 pesos. I asked him to cure my gut problems, and I'll be eternally grateful if it works. Afterwards, the first taita returned to find out how much I'd paid the second taita.

A bottle which the taita said contained yagé, a hallucinogen obtained from a vine.  
A taita on San Victorino. 

A handful of beads. 
A necklace. 
The Inga are descendants of what I believe are the only Colombian people who belonged to the Inca Empire. (I suspected that their name is a derivation of 'Inca.') They're famed for their curative powers.

The Ingas' territory, along the Ecuadorean border. 
These two taitas appeared to be under the influence of something other than yagé.


Passing the afternoon on San Victorino, near the sculpture called 'La Mariposa.'
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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