Our friends Tom and Kelsey, who are speeding ahead of us on their drive through South America, recommended that we get our car blessed when we reached Copacabana. Located on Lake Titicaca just across the Peruvian border, Copacabana was our first destination in Bolivia. As the drivers get more reckless the further south we head, we figured some divine intervention might protect us and our faithful car, caballo. We first wandered into Copacabana’s main square in front of the cathedral to admire the lines of cars festooned with flowers being sprinkled with holy water by brown- and white-robed priests. Some people opened the hoods of their cars for a special engine-blessing, while other people set up entire shrines complete with miniature houses, stores, and vehicles in front of their car. Some of the cars looked like they could use all of the help they could get, mechanical and spiritual. Following the lead of the crowds around us, we purchased two Virgin figurines and joined the jostling crowd around the priest for a blessing with holy water. We also saw decorated cars streaming down to the beachfront for blessings. Hoping to avoid the hours-long line of cars waiting for a blessing in front of the church, we took caballo down to the lake. After buying decorations, confetti, beer, and fireworks, we kicked back and watched the chaos around us while waiting for a priest to arrive.
Sharing beers with a Peruvian family
While waiting, a shaman swinging a censer of incense approached us and offered her services. As it didn’t seem like a priest was going to show up any time soon, we figured it couldn’t hurt to hedge our bets and ask for blessings from as many gods as possible. She prayed in Spanish and the pre-Inca language Aymara to the Virgin Mary and Mother Earth, accompanied by much bell-ringing and heady incense smoke. Blessing complete, we sprayed our car with beer, covered it with confetti, and lit off finger-threatening fireworks. We were then invited to share some beers with a Peruvian family. They were also getting their cars blessed, and were spending a couple of hours drinking before heading back to Peru. They were from the area around Puno, Peru, so they mixed their rapid-fire Spanish with Aymara. As the sun dropped behind Lake Titicaca, the wind picked up and it got frigidly cold. The family wished us safe travels as they piled in to their two vans and headed back across the border. With the protection of the Virgin and Mother Earth, we now feel safe to do battle with the aggressive Bolivian drivers.