National Geographic : 1966 Feb
National Geographic, February, 1966 the most awesome cliff of all, The Balcony, near Chuspipata (page 167). The cross bore the date 1944 and five names, not of luckless motorists but of victims of politics. I learned more about this tragedy on New Year's Day, 1960, when I was returning to La Paz from a seaside holiday at Arica, Chile, where Bolivians have free-port privileges. Tale Unfolds Aboard "The Smuggler" On a train nicknamed "ElContrabandista" I shared a seat with a small, proud, elderly lady with threadbare clothing, a pasteboard suitcase bound with twine, and a paper bag of lunch. As the train labored up into the Andean foothills, it lurched and the paper bag spilled its contents. I retrieved an orange for the sefiora. Soon we were friends. Most Latin Americans are extremely na tionalistic, and I was surprised when she said: "I am sorry to say that I am Bolivian. I live in Santiago, Chile. Like 30,000 of my coun trymen, I am an expatriate. I go now to La Paz only because I need money. I have to sell my little house there. That's the only thing in life that matters. Money!" She snapped her fingers derisively. Hours later, while attendants were offer ing oxygen, my companion pointed from her window to a distant snow-capped peak. "That looks like a Bolivian mountain." "No, sefiora, that is the Volcan Tacora, in Chile. Bolivia lies a little farther on." A while later she spied grazing llamas and clutched my arm. "There are no llamas in Chile. Now we are in Bolivia!" "No, sefiora. But soon...." At sunset the train slowed at the border village of Charafia. The sefiora peered at huge scrawls on an adobe wall: "Up with Paz" and "Down with Arce." "Ah," she said, "now we come to my country." The train wheezed to a stop. A bugle call sounded. A red-yellow and-green Bolivian banner sank down a flagstaff for the night. The Jam-packed pilgrims, many from foreign lands, crowd Copacabana each year to honor her famous Virgin. A copy of the Virgin's statue rides in procession amidst the noise of fire crackers and the prayers of the pious. The original, carved by the Indian Francisco Yupanqui in 1576, never leaves Copacabana's basilica; tradi tion forbids its movement lest the waters of Lake Titicaca rise in flood. A trudge up a hill called Calvario highlights the three-day August fiesta, Bolivia's foremost religious event. Some pilgrims make the climb on their knees, carrying small stones from the bottom as proof of their de votion. They deposit the stones around hilltop shrines that depict the Virgin Mary's seven sorrows.