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Santa Clara University Archives :: Exhibits :: Urban Dreams / Suenos Urbanos :: Coca Reading
University Archives - Urban Dreams / Suenos Urbanos - Rituals and Beliefs in the City - Coca Reading
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Coca Reading
  Coca Reading, 1996
Discouraged about the health of his father in the campo, Alvaro and his brothers use their urban network to find suitable treatment for him. Older brother, Xavier, seeks insight through divination from a yatiri reading coca leaves. Many Alte�os continue to actively practice indigenous forms of health care. Xavier feels that a yatiri (shaman, "one who knows") will read his coca leaves and determine what is ailing his father and then suggest alternative therapies. This image of local yatiri Don Lucio, reading leaves in his El Alto bedroom, while Xavier takes notes, illustrates the intimacy of indigenous health care.

Spread out on the bed, Lucio places individual leaves on the cloth (representing Xavier's father, his family, his soul, his enemies, and his friends) and then drops other leaves onto them. Depending upon the final position of the leaves (dark or light side up, direction, etc.), Lucio interprets what they "say" and forecasts what will happen to Xavier's father in the future. Lucio believes that the illness is not caused by a curse or sorcery (as the family fears), but is a medical condition and should be treated accordingly. In the end, they brought their father to a local physician in El Alto who diagnosed him with asthma.

  ©1996
Permission to reproduce any portion of the exhibit Urban Dreams/Suenos Urbanos is strictly prohibited.
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