They live in La Paz and they all have one thing in common: they carry Bolivia in their hearts. In this series of portraits, Thaki Voyage invites you to meet Bolivians, both born and bred, who travel in their own country and share with us their vision, their treasures and a few secrets.
Who are you, Gabriela? What is your relationship with Bolivia?
My name is Gabriela Benitez, I’m an artist and I run a ceramics workshop in La Paz. I’ve always lived in Bolivia. It’s the cultural diversity of my country that interests and inspires me. I learn a lot on a daily basis and I have a great respect for traditional customs.
Tell us about your latest trip to Bolivia?
My last trip was to Tarija, for my mother’s surprise birthday! We went there as a family, by car from La Paz, and it’s a long journey… I love the desolate landscapes of the Altiplano, stopping to pick up the colourful quinoa twigs and stones of all shapes and sizes.
In Tarija, we visited the family home, which houses the library of my grandfather Don Federico Avila, a notable Bolivian writer and founder of the Misael Saracho state university: I love getting lost in these books on history, stories and archaeology… there’s even some French literature in there!
And it was quite a gastronomic trip… We went on an excursion to Coimata, then to Lake San Jacinto, to eat little crabs (misquinchos) and fried fish. We also went to Tomatitas to eat humintas with basil (a speciality made from corn dough) and to the valley to drink the traditional and unique Patero wine.
Leaving Tarija, we visited the charming little town of San Lorenzo to have an ice-cream latte and take away some sweet empanadas with lacayote (a variety of squash) to share on the way back to La Paz.
What's your favourite object from Bolivia?
My favourite item is a pair of slippers of my own design, made from leather and alpaca wool, so soft to rest my little feet!
And your favourite place to recharge your batteries in La Paz, or anywhere else?
My resource is the sacred Lake Titicaca! I’ve got my own little routine… First I go for a little walk to the hot springs on the road to Mina Matilde, before returning to the shores of the lake, and I bring my little offerings of gratitude, I build a fire on the beach … I have my little place that always heals me, to the rhythm of the winds.
What's your best memory of your trip to Bolivia?
There’s one place I want to go back to, and that’s the Bolivian Chiquitanía where I spent my childhood. My best memories are of Santiago de Chiquitos. I have heavenly memories of swimming at Aguas Calientes, and its white sandy beach surrounded by a forest of fruit trees.
Finally: a book, music album or artist to recommend to future travellers?
There’s a contemporary singer from La Paz with a special voice that I really like, Canela Palacios and her album Sur (released in 2020). She’s a real discovery!