The speed with which the Virgen de Copacabana emerged as the most revered religious image in the Altiplano after the Spanish conquest suggests that her cult was simply a continuation of previous, pre-Christian religious traditions associated with Lago Titicaca. Immediately after the conquest the Inca temples around the lake were looted by Spanish treasure-seekers, and their shrines and idols destroyed. These included, at Copacabana, a large female idol with a fish’s tail – probably a representation of the lake as a goddess. The town was refounded in 1573 as the parish of Santa Ana de Copacabana, but a series of devastating early frosts swiftly ensued, convincing locals of the need for a new supernatural protector. Santa Ana was abandoned and the town rededicated in honour of the Virgen de la Candelaria, one of the most popular representations of the Virgin Mary during the Spanish conquest of the Americas.

A locally born man, Francisco Inca Yupanqui, grandson of the Inca Huayna Capac (himself the father of Atahualpa, whose capture by the Spanish led to the fall of the Inca empire), began fashioning an image of the Virgin. After his first crude efforts were rejected by the Spanish priests he went to Potosí to study sculpture, eventually returning with the figure that graces the church today, the Virgen de Copacabana, who was immediately credited with a series of miracles. The town quickly became the most important Catholic pilgrimage destination in the southern Andes, and after independence, the Virgin was also proclaimed the religious patron of Bolivia.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Bolivia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
Bolivia: make time for South America’s most misunderstood country

Bolivia: make time for South America’s most misunderstood country

Bolivia brims with unique and barely-visited landscapes and cultures. It offers everything from the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flats, to the Par…

28 Dec 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs