Copacabana

Copacabana is likely to be associated with one of the favorite beaches among tourists, located in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). However, few people know that its name roots have to do with Bolivian village, established in the 17th century. Later, the local church was reconstructed into a well-known Brazilian Fort Copacabana.

The name of Capacabana has been adopted from Aymara language; it is translated as “the view of the lake”. Indeed, Copacabana is situated on the south-western shore of Titicaca Lake, the object of worship in Incas civilization. Long before the city was founded, it received much appreciation and attention from its rulers. In fact, lots of shrines and religious stuff were preserved in Copacabana, which is why this “holy” place was one of prior objects of protection for Incas from Spaniards. The most cherished site was the Virgen de la Candelaria statue, which gathered people all over South America, eager to obtain her blessing. It was created by Manco Kapac in 1576, grandson of Inca ruler at the time; he took it from Potosi to Copacabana. She is also referred to as The Black Madonna or Dark Virgin of the Lake. There are many legends about how she saved people caught in a storm. According to one of them, the Black Madonna also helped some Brazilian fisher man to overcome the natural disaster, and later he founded one of the famous areas in Brazil – Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro. In contrast, Our Lady of Copacabana became the Saint Patron of Bolivia.

Spaniards were also surprised by the miracles Our Lady could do. In practice, there are some myths that harvests of Black Madonna’s contradictors were destroyed; that was the price of disbelief in her wonder-working powers. Astonished Spaniards, who eventually conquered Copacabana, immediately started building of a church named after her in Copacabana. At first, the statue was moved into a local chapel in 1583, which later became the Basilica de la Virgen de Candelaria. It was executed in Moorish style in 1805. It is one of the brightest sightseeing spots in Copacabana that pulls in both curious tourists and devoted pilgrims. The sanctuary of the Black Madonna is full of worshippers ‘wax images that embody their wishes.

Lots of local events are related to the Basilica. One of the famous festivals in Bolivia is arranged in Copacabana on February. It is called Virgen de la Candelaria. For several days calm cities on the Titicaca Lake transform into noisy and festive destinations. In particular, the celebrations take place in Copacabana on the one side of the lake and in Peruvian Puno on the other. Parades, dances and marches are guaranteed for every visitor. The other tradition related to Bolivian Saint Patron is Benedicion de Movildades – the consecration of cars, which occurs every day at 10 AM and 2:30 PM. 

As far as Copacabana was one of the sacred places among Incas, it is not a surprise that the other must-see sites are related to their livelihood. There are three relics left. Horca del Inca or “scaffold” is presented with three large stones, used for stars and the Sun observation. Baño del Inca is a modern museum of archeological findings; there is a well on the backyard that was likely to possess miracle-making powers. Asiento del Inca is believed to be a seat or meeting place of Incas’ priests.