Throughout Latin America, November 2nd marks The Day of the Dead, a colorful celebration during which deceased friends and relatives are remembered and honored. In La Paz, Bolivia they mark the passing of loved ones a little differently. On November 8th, Bolivians celebrate a pre-Incan Aymara ritual called Ñatitas during which people walk around carrying the skulls of the dearly departed. We were never in La Paz when this festival was taking place, but we did visit the General Cemetery in La Paz to admire the vibrant, striking work of local street artists who use the cemetery as their canvas.

cemetery La Paz, Bolivia Ñatintas Cemetery Art

The General Cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia has become the unlikely home of some of the country’s most striking street art.

In 2016, a street art collective called Perros Sueltos (Stray Dogs), whose tag line is ‘Urban art where you least expect it”, started organizing local, national, and international street artists to paint on the many blank walls around the General Cemetery in La Paz. Soon, the annual Ñatintas art fest was born. The clever name of the festival was created by adding an “n” to the name of the Ñatitas festival to include the word “tintas”, which means ink in Spanish, within the festival name.

la paz cemetery murals Ñatintas Cemetery Art

Most of the walls in the cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia are small, but there are a few large walls that can accommodate large works of art like these.

Skull Artwork

Human skulls play a big role in the Ñatitas festival, so it’s no surprise that skulls are a very common theme in the Ñatintas artwork. It strikes us that many of these pieces would look right at home on a T-shirt at a Dead concert.

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More cemetery artwork in La Paz

Ñatitas traditions and the cemetery itself inspire more than just skull art as you can see in the images below.

Ñatintas Cemetery Art

Traditional hats and ponchos are depicted in these mural portraits in the General Cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia.

La Paz cemetery

The cemetery offers many surfaces, large and small, that make useful canvases for street artists.

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Flower arrangements make sense in a cemetery.

More flowers in the General Cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia.

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Getting to the General Cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia

The General Cemetery is about a mile (1.5 km) from Plaza San Francisco in central La Paz. If you’re walking, be ready for a bit of climbing up to the cemetery which can be harder than it seems if you are not acclimatized to the very high altitude of this Andean city. Of course, you can also take a taxi to the cemetery from anywhere in the city.

teleferico over la paz cemetery

Passing over the General Cemetery in La Paz as seen from the city’s most innovative form of transportation, the MiTeleferico cable car system.

However, the most interesting way to get to the General Cemetery is to take the Mi Teleférico urban cable car transportation system. To get from the center of La Paz to the General Cemetery, go to the Edificio Correos (Post Office Building) Station and take the Línea Morada (Purple Line) up one stop to the city of El Alto above La Paz where you switch to the Línea Plateada (Platinum Line). Take the Platinum Line over the markets of El Alto to the 16 de Julio (16th of July) Station where you switch to the Línea Roja (Red Line) and take that down to the the Cemiterio (Cemetery) stop. Allow about an hour for this scenic aerial journey. If you’re pressed for time, travel directly to a Red Line station and take that line directly to the Cemiterio stop.

Note that the Cemiterio stop leaves you near the back entrance to the General Cemetery, not at the main gate.

Here’s more about travel in Bolivia

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