Just a short drive out of the city lies la Muela del Diablo, or the Devil’s Tooth in English. It’s a cool rock formation and a great place to look out over La Paz. Back in August I drove up with some friends to explore it. These are the photos I took that day. (And a few my friends took of me ’cause they’re nice like that).
Bolivian newspaper La Razón posted an article back in 2011 on the satanic underbelly of la Muela. Since it’s the glorious month of Halloween and I wanted to practice translating something, here’s a little spooky backstory for y’all:
La Muela del Diablo, Another Satanic Site
“My friend Miriam went inside one of the caves. I didn’t want to because I was scared. There was an altar and she made an offering. She had a boyfriend and so she asked the Devil ‘I want to be with him until I die!’ She died in an accident that same year.”
This story was collected onsite by La Razón. “I asked for something, too, but I didn’t go into the cave. ‘I want to be with my love and have a child with him!’ I said. Now I have a two year-old daughter, but my boyfriend passed away,” she added.
The volcanic plug is located 40 minutes outside of the urban center by car. In the Aymara language this place is called Auqui Kollo, which means Father Mountain and in Andean culture is a wak’a (a sacred space where rituals are performed).
La Muela, according to testimonies collected by this publication, is also considered a sanctuary of Lucifer’s, where worshippers gather on Tuesdays and Fridays. It’s similar to the curve on the La Paz-El Alto highway, where a sculpture sits that believers say is the devil.
The young woman explained that she visited the site with her two friends out of curiosity. They were cursed back in eighth grade, when they were just 13 years old and prayed for miracles. As far as she says, their prayers were answered. Far from these rites and beliefs, La Muela del Diablo is part of an ecotourism circuit in Mallasa, visited annually by approximately 10,000 tourists (mostly hikers and outdoor adventurers) from Bolivia and abroad.
When asked about the dark rituals, the mayor of the macrodistrict of Mallasa, Miguel Quispe, claimed that “that type of ritual might be taking place in the early morning hours.”
The director of the Special Force Against Crime (Fuerza Especial de Lucha Contra el Crimen, or FELCC), of the city’s Southern Zone, Colonel Daniel Quintanilla, claimed not to know if satanic rituals took place on the site and pointed out that between 2009 and 2011 no violent crimes were reported in the area.
Between the rocks at the tooth’s peak there are graffitied names of men and women. On one of the points that forms the distinctive tooth shape, nature has sketched out a sort of face, with small eyes and a large nose. Visitors have painted more graffiti here, proof that not everyone takes the satanic cult seriously.
In holes between rocks, there are also the remains of white and colored candles, coca leaves, dozens of plastic liquor bottles and soldaditos (little soldiers), medicine-grade alcohol which costs 1 Bolivano and which minors and the homeless often use to get drunk due to its low cost.
In one of the crevices La Razón found a rolled up photograph of a boy. On its back someone had written “Alberto S. M. dead…”
Nearby, under the rocks, there’s a photocopy of a young cholita’s ID card. Catalina C., age 37. Other names are handwritten on the page.
The cave where our interviewee’s friend asked the devil to love her boyfriend till death is a little further down La Muela’s sloping sides. According to the legend, in order for Lucifer to grant the favor you have to visit the site three consecutive times. “that same year (2006) Miriam died in an accident. She went on a trip with my friends to Copacabana. The water on the lake was really choppy that day and she drowned. I haven’t been back here since that day, but now I’m not asking him for anything,” she assured us.
At the feet of the Muela lies the rural community of Chiaraque. Its inhabitants consider the mountain to be one of the most important apachetas (sacred sites) in La Paz.
“According to tradition, on the 21st of June (the solstice and Aymara New Year) and in the month of August we offer food and drink to give thanks to Pachamama for the year’s blessings,” said German Quispe, who has lived here for 46 years.
However, he informed us that people unaffiliated with the community surrendered themselves to satanic cults: “They mostly come on Tuesdays and Fridays because those are the devil’s days. They make offerings to him and ask him for favors.”
Another local who didn’t wish to be named told us that an elderly man had asked the devil to help cure him and now he’s no longer afflicted by the disease.
According to Andean mythology, wak’as are ancestral spirits that inhabit the rocks, hills, air, springs, etc., and have a reciprocal relationship with humans, answering their prayers and thus forming a special mystic connection.
German Quispe explained that, in keeping with the tradition of their ancestors, locals fill a table with food and offerings for Pachamama every year on the slopes of La Muela.
“It’s tradition to perform this type of Andean ritual, especially in [August]. Members of the community offer mesas blancas (ceremonial tables filled with food and other offerings) that include llama fetuses and other traditional offerings. Typically, these rituals are performed in the morning and the evening.”
Last October, when I was sitting in my very first Aymara class, my professor warned us not to go anywhere near La Muela at night. I remembered her saying that people performed dark rituals there, and even though I apparently failed to take a single photo of them, we saw candles and empty bottles like the ones described in the article all over the place up there.
I would recommend La Muela to anyone looking to get out of the city for a few hours and take in some spectacular views. After that story, I’d likely refrain from asking the devil for any favors, but hey, that’s your prerogative.
A note: The images in this post were edited in Adobe Lightroom using the dope af free presets I found here: http://natephotographic.com/vsco-cam-lightroom-presets-starter-pack/ Check him out!