THE STORY OF THE TEMPLE WHERE 73 SKULLS ARE WORSHIPPED IN BOLIVIA
The 'Casita de Los Pobres' in La Paz (Bolivia) looks like a normal house. However, every day devotees arrive with flowers and candles to ask the 73 "ñatitas" for help.
In the Andean region of the city of La Paz there is a small temple known as 'the house of the poor', where daily devotees arrive with flowers and candles to ask the 73 'ñatitas', human skulls, for help in solving their problems. At first glance it is a normal house, but behind the door and a white curtain is the small temple with orange walls and four wooden sidewalks, which keep the two shelves where the 73 human skulls are displayed with woollen caps and their names embroidered.
In the place there is a space to light white candles, pray and also to place flowers, sweets or even bottles of beer as offerings to the "miraculous ñatitas", so called because they have no nose. The 73 ñatitas arrived in the hands of the Bolivian Elizabeth Portugal with the names of those who were in life and in some cases also knew the profession they exercised, among lawyers, policemen, bricklayers etc..
Every November 8 is celebrated the day of the ñatitas in Bolivia. Many believers take skulls from urns and take them to cemeteries like the General of La Paz to have them blessed and celebrated with a "preste", a feast with music bands, drinks and coca leaves.
"Most of them brought me people because they couldn't take care of them," said Elizabeth. Keeping an ñatita is a responsibility: we have to talk to them, pray, light candles and give them flowers every Monday, so that they don't get angry and continue to help solve the devotees' problems. The owner commented that most believers come to the temple asking for health, protection, support in love or to solve a couple problem.
Other devotees arrive in desperation asking for the skulls' help in finding missing persons, solving court cases, getting a job or getting good test scores. People know the place as the "little house of the poor" because low-income people come to the temple to ask the ñatitas for help.
There are also members of Congress, police officers and the military who visit this house to ask for favors to the skulls or to thank them for their help. While all believers pray for the 73 skulls, there are some that are most needed by the devotees depending on the "miracle" they desire. This is the case of "Cielito", the skull of a baby, to which many women turn when they want to have children and they do not arrive, or "Cecilia", which helps those who have problems in love or in studies.
Many people come to visit "Waldo" for protection and also for fortune, or the singular "Maruja" when they want her couple to change their character. "Walter" to solve a legal problem, or "Oscar", "Diego" and "Victor" to ask for help in police cases. The owner is the "counsellor" and works as an intermediary between the ñatitas and the client, because with the help of her skulls she reads the luck in the cigar and the coca leaf, but also through dreams receives answers from the skulls to the problems expressed.
In Bolivia, this tradition celebrates the end of the celebration of All Saints' Day and the Dead, in a country where it is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit their families and friends at noon on November 1 and leave the next day.
Elizabeth is in great demand by devotees, because they believe she is "infallible" and her ñatitas have great power. "I am happy to be here to help the simple people," she said. The woman emphasized that in her temple they work to do good and do not allow others to use skulls for evil or witchcraft, so black candles are forbidden.