A terrified festival-goer says he was being offered as a human sacrifice to Mother Earth after he woke up trapped in a coffin following a drinking binge.
Terrified Víctor Hugo Mica Alvarez, 30, smashed out of the casket in Achacachi about 50 miles from where he passed out in the city of El Alto, Bolivia.
He’d been drinking heavily the night before, at the opening of the Mother Earth festival – where indigenous people offer everything from live animals and sheep foetuses to sweets and coca leaves for the goddess, who they believe ‘opens her mouth’ for offerings in August.
Victor claims he was among the human sacrifices some fear are still offered in ancient-style rituals to satisfy her.
He told local media, while covered in mud and concrete, after his apparent escape: ‘Last night was the pre-entry [of the festival], we went dancing. And afterwards I don’t remember.
‘The only thing I remember is that I thought I was in my bed, I wanted to get up to go urinate and I couldn’t move.
‘When I pushed the coffin, I was able to break a glass that it had and that way I was able to get out.
‘When I pushed the coffin I barely broke the glass and, through the glass, dirt began to enter. They wanted to use me as a sullu.’
When Victor reported his burial to police they refused to believe him – saying he was too drunk to know why he ended up buried alive.
He added: ‘We’ve gone dancing… and I don’t remember anymore.
‘I have broken the glass, my whole hand has been hurt, I have barely gone out, but I went to the police and they told me that I am drunk.
‘“You’re going to come healthy,” they told me.’
The term sullu refers to any offerings commonly made to give back to Mother Earth, or ‘Pachamama’, throughout August in Bolivia.
While they often take the form of colourful sweets, desiccated llamas, medicinal plants, eggs, minerals, some warn human sacrifices are still carried out.
Travel writers have said the ‘other worldy is everyday’ in Bolivia.
This year’s Pachamama took place on August 1, with one ritual involving indigenous people gathering at dawn for a ceremony with fires and offerings.
On the Day of Mother Earth, followers go to the highest elevations they can to burn wood stacks with animal fat, coloured paper and sweets to thank the goddess.
The faithful believe Mother Earth is exhausted after providing for humanity.
Last year, worshippers bundled in warm coats and wore face masks against the spread of Covid-19.