In My Places: a visual storytelling

      No hay comentarios en In My Places: a visual storytelling

Exploring Chipaya’s heritage sites

This photo-reportage/storytelling/GPS mapping was created by Michele Pasquale (EUAV/GVC Bolivia Communication Officer: text, photos, design, GPS mapping) within the framework of GVC/Cebem’s «Qnas Soñi (hombres del agua/water’s men)» project on April, 2017, in Chipaya (Oruro Dept., Bolivia). The main aim was to document with images the most important places of Chipayas’ tradition creating, at the same time, a map to be used for a future international tourist tour in the area. The first part was realized with the great help of Clemente Manani, colleague and citizen of Chipaya, ‘scampering’ by motorcycle around the 4 Ayllus (districts) of the municipality for few days, dawn and/or dusk time. The second part with Eliezer Franco, Production Area’s Manager, and GVC/Cebem’s team of work, during a harsh day-trip through the Coipasa salt flat.

My Great Challenge

Describing Chipayas’ indigenous culture and traditions, their ancient customs and present contradictions facing important, contemporary transformations in a different, original way. How? Exploring recommended cultural native heritage sites documenting them with photos, personal feelings and impressions, field notes and life stories.I am actively contributing to the community tourism development project – part of the resilience strategy plan – creating a visual archive of the most interesting, fascinating, historically important places selected within the four Chipayas’ Ayllus (districts). Several locations, different stories, a great photographic challenge: an occasion to investigate the renovated relationships with other Bolivian cultures, the forthcoming international tourism in this area, linked to the daily use and influence of the web and, especially, social networks.

Here’s » in my PLACES «, special report trying to catch your eyes.

Read this page in Spanish clicking HERE!


For more information:


About the author: Portfolio 1  – Portfolio 2Instagram / CV


Since the first day, Clemente and I started our tour at 6AM. It was my crazy idea to wake-up very early because of this reason: «Light’s much better one hour after the sunrise, one hour before the sunset. I read it on a cheap «how-to-make-great-photos» second-hand book. So, well…see you tomorrow morning in the central square!». And we did it.

Temperature: within -5/-10’C, with blasts of cold wind.

First step: crossing the River Lauca without falling down in the cold, dark water.

Located at the crossroad of the 4 Ayllus (districts), Chipaya’s Central Square’s the economic and political centre of the native community.

Plaza Central, Pueblo Chipaya (watha) – Central Square, village of Chipaya

GPS Position: LAT: -19.02525 – LON: -68.05346 – ALT: 3634 m .

Since ever, Rio Lauca has been the most important Chipayas’ source of life as well as the main risk of disaster in this area. Established fact, it is still necessary to irrigate quinoa plantations assuring community’s subsistence but, at the same, it has to be constantly monitored and controlled to reroute the seasonal, very dangerous water-floods. How? With the construction of the traditional water dykes (‘defensivos’) all along strategic points of the river banks.

Rio Lauca Manasaya (Puhu Lauca) – Lauca River in Manasaya:

traditional water dykes (defensivos – pik) construction point on River Lauca.

GPS Position: LAT: -18.94009488 – LON: -68.12385209 – ALT: 3694.85 m .

Just 1 km beyond this traditional water dykes construction point, the Lauca’s artificially divided in two parts (Taypi Uyu Chaca): one part’s directed to Aransaya’s Ayllu (district), the other one to Manasaya’s.

Taypi Uyu Chaca (River Lauca)

GPS Position: LAT: -18.92914539 – LON: -68.13578883 – ALT: 3694.28 m .

So we arrived at our first ‘reportage-hotspot’: Manasaya’s viewpoint. «This place is called ‘Galchuru’, in Uru Chipaya language, or ‘Leñar(es)’ in Spanish, which means «place where to cut up for firewoods». In times past, there were many trees around here but now, as you can see, nothing left…from this tower you might see the nearby lagoon».

Mirador Manasaya / Yawźku Cherś (Manasaya’s viewpoint)

GPS Position: LAT: -19.05357295 – LON: -68.05211216 – ALT: 3666.53 m .

Icy morning ‘motor-rolling-stoning». «So where do we go now?» .

Even if I couldn’t clearly see the lagoon (‘kota’) because it was too far away (low water level in this season), we went on with our tour: second step, the famous «White Dunes» of Manasaya. The temperature was higher, but still around 0’C: my hands were freezing, couldn’t even click on my camera.

During our tour, we passed through the great «Altiplano Andino» (Andes Region), with its fascinating, boundless, immense atmosphere: the perfect biker’s daydream.

After 20 minutes of icy ‘motor-rolling-stoning», we reached the «White Dunes of Manasaya», a great ‘monster’ made of sand stretched out in the midst of the «Altiplano». The effect was unbelievable, almost unreal: did we end up in the Sahara Desert for a few?

Dunas Blancas Manasaya / Phila Chiwi (Manasaya’s white dunes)

GPS Position: LAT: -18.99561218 – LON: -68.01766207 – ALT: 3678.50 m .

«Let’s climb up the dune»

Hypnotized by these beautiful white sand patterns and moving stripings, I tried to take a picture of Clemente while climbing the dune. 8AM: the temperature was totally different, the sun cruelly hot. «Finally, I saw the light, the Savior!», I thought. But it was just too late to take good pictures (as indicated in the already quoted second-hand photo manual).

«There is another accesible way by car to the dunes, just few kms away from here. It is called «The First White Dune». Let’s go there, ‘hombre’, I have a good story about a White Puma for you…» gently told me Clemente. «A White Puma in the Andes Region? Are you sure about it?». «Been dazed and confused for so long it’s not true…» I sang to myself: did we go off on a tangent because of the hard sun, or in one of my favourite Led Zeppelin’s song by chance? So we moved to the ‘Puma-place’.

«The legend says a White Puma lives in this location, but I’ve never seen this animal. Nevertheless, it is still considered a dangerous place, a forbidden area for children. A woman lost her voice permanently because she moved over the First White Dune, even if warned of the risks. Chipayas never climb this dune constantly moving, even 4-5 meters per year, in this direction…They say you can hear a thud, a strange, dull sound when approaching it. We call it ‘khawñi’». I couldn’t believe the story, at least the freaky Puma part. But I also noticed Clemente didn’t climb the dune this time. So I did the same, asking him to move to another place.

Primera Duna Blanca (Phila Chiwi), recorrido en carro / First White Dune, tour by car

GPS Position: LAT: -19.00679345 – LON: -68.03023710 – ALT: 3678.60 m .

Late afternoon, we reached the ancient church of Wistrullani’s district. One more time, my ‘photographic-enlightenment’ was quite perfect: a quiet, warm, yellowish, pleasing, even sentimental trick of light was there, in front of my eyes. So I started shooting photos, as never before.

Iglesia de Wistrullani (Wistrullani’s church)

GPS Position: LAT: -19.06566305 – LON: -68.42449244 – ALT: 3662.46 m .

All around Wistrullani’s church, you can admire Chipayas’ traditional houses made up of ‘adobe’, the natural brick composed of straw (paja -pit), sand (arena – pila), soil (tierra – lhaspa) and water (agua – kas).

Not so far from the central square of Chipaya, during harvest time (March-April), you might find various farmyards (corrales – uyu) made of ‘adobe’ filled up with the most important Chipayas’ traditional crop: quinoa (kula).

It’s time to go back (home). Just few minutes for a last, improvised stop to the fab «Manasaya’s lagoon» (kota), the one I saw from the «Mirador» around 6.30AM. We’re tired but pleased, cold but cheered up by this great sunset over Chipaya’s municipality. Still, there will be many places to document and explore during the next days.

Laguna de Manasaya (Manasaya’s lagoon)

GPS Position: LAT: -18.94009488 – LON: -68.12385209 – ALT: 3694.85 m .

Salar de Coipasa (Yaku G’ara)

GPS Position: LAT: -19.433 – LON: -68.150 – ALT: 3657 m .



And…what about Coipasa?

Stay tuned for the second episode of «Places. Exploring Chipaya’s heritage sites»: the harsh day-trip crossing through Coipasa salt flat. Coming (very) soon.

Deja una respuesta

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada.