Symbolic arrangement and communication in the despacho
The thesis investigates the content and composition of the despacho, the ritual offering used to propitiate principal earth deities in the Bolivian mining town of Oruro (Department of Oruro). The despacho is also designed to increase suerte which is viewed not only in terms of material fortune, but also personal well-being and harmony with the cosmos. The concepts and terminology of the despacho are discussed, as well as the different types of despacho used, and particular features of their content, composition and presentation. The first part of the thesis shows how the content and arrangement of the despacho constitute a symbolic language, communicating what is important about suerte, and creating a miniature picture of life on earth in all its abundance. The despacho’s symbolic language is particularly meaningful in terms of suerte and the Quechua and Aymara peoples’ worldview. The second part of the thesis investigates the use of six different curing mesas used in a ritual ceremony to restore suerte following a coca divination ceremony. Both ceremonies were performed by an Aymara ritual specialist from a village south of Oruro. The content and function of each mesa is discussed, and I show how the six mesas were used in a sequence to describe a transition from mala suerte to suerte, and as part of a broader sequence of ritual events. In this part of the thesis I demonstrate how symbolic language is also used in healing mesas to describe and bring about changes between different states, and to create access to suerte in ritual.