Virgin Mary/Pachamama Syncretism: Exploring filial ayni relationship with the Divine Feminine in early-colonial Copacabana, Bolivia


  • Lynette Yetter Reed College


Pachamama, Virgin Mary, Peru, Bolivia, Colonial, Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, Copacabana, Lake Titicaca, Andes


This paper explores an historical event in the sixteenth century when the indigenous people of early-colonial Copacabana, Bolivia exchanged their patron saint Santa Ana for the Virgin Mary. This paper attempts to elucidate why they did this by drawing evidence from Spanish chronicles, archaeology, art history, sixteenth-century Spanish intellectual history, linguistics, and colonial court documents. It has generally been accepted by Andeanists that the Catholic Virgin Mary in the Andes is syncretized with indigenous Pachamama (Mother Earth and space/time continuum). It has been assumed that this syncretism serves as an intermediary between people and a divine father, God. However, history is written by the conquerors. By exploring the point of view of the conquered Andean people it becomes apparent that there was no overarching concept of divine father, and therefore no need for an intermediary. Instead of the Spanish imaginings of a divine court with saints like the Virgin Mary as lawyers and God the Father as judge, the Andean people have viewed themselves as Pachamama's children in a loving and reciprocal family relationship with the sentient landscape.


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Author Biography

Lynette Yetter, Reed College

Lynette Yetter is a permanent resident of Bolivia, studied Quechua at UCLA, and is halfway through the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Reed College. She has written two books inspired by her experiences living and working with indigenous people in the Andes, Lucy Plays Panpipes for Peace, and 72 Money Saving Tips for the 99%. You can find out more about Lynette's music, movies, books and art at


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