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mr_halo

Andean Fat Stealers

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mr_halo

Central and South America have other explanations for missing body parts, such as the supernatural creatures that swipe body fat. The lik’ichiri are said to haunt the altiplano (highlands) of the Andes mountains; the word means ‘fat stealer’ in the language of the Aymara, one of the indigenous groups of the Andes and it is well known among the Quechua, Aymara, and other native Andean cultures.

While in Bolivia, in 1996, I interviewed Eulogio Chavez, an ethnolinguist at the Ethnology and Folklore museum in La Paz about this tradition. According to Chavez, the lik’ichiri attacks people as they sleep on the altiplano; it cuts long, thin slits in the sides of its victim and removes the fat painlessly. The wound promptly heals and, usually, the victim is none the wiser (Radford 1996). According to legend, unless treatment is given promptly, the victim soon dies.

Although Chavez believed the lik’ichiri to be a very ancient belief – possibly originating before the Spanish Conquest in the 1530s – its urban variant has clearly been modernised. While most reported attacks occur in the mountains, some stories come from the cities as well.

In La Paz, Bolivia’s capital and largest city, hapless bus riders are said to be attacked late at night. To protect himself, the traveller should travel during daylight wherever possible, or in the company of others at night. Eating garlic is supposed to dilute the fat, making it less appealing or unusable to the lik’ichiri. Treatments include a potion called achacachi.

Traditionally, the lik’ichiri is regarded as a spirit or imaginary entity, but most people I interviewed in La Paz, including Mr Chavez, believe the modern lik’ichiri is a person, or group of people, with special powers, including the ability to lull their victims and make painless incisions. The powers of the lik’ichiri seem to many people like hypnosis; ie, the ability to make others fall asleep at will, follow commands, or dull the pain of a cut. “It’s not necessarily evil,” Chavez notes, “but a profession. It’s an economic question.”

The lik’ichiri supposedly sells its collected fat to international corporations – usually American – for indeterminate use in plastic surgery and the development of anæsthetics. According to Chavez, it is widely believed that unscrupulous company representatives buy the fat knowing that it was taken from innocent victims. According to Chavez, this is rationalised as comparable to the history of quinine (1); just as the whites took quinine from the Andes and developed it for profit, he said, the same is happening with the life-preserving fat of the Andean people.

Similar beliefs include the pishtacos and the sacaojos (“eye-stealers”) of Peru. The Peruvian capital Lima, in particular, was gripped by the rumour that the sacaojos were bands of foreigners who roamed the streets, kidnapping children and later throwing them back on the pavement with their eyes gouged out. The eyes were believed to be sold overseas.

The legend may articulate anxiety about the loss of body fat through disease or starvation; in the frigid Andean highlands, such a loss by any means could be fatal. On a cultural level, not only is the very future (the children) of the native peoples being taken but their own bodies are being stolen from them. Inevitably, this fuels xenophobia. According to Shakespeare: “The figure of the pishtaco is first of all that of a foreigner. This tall white – who drinks milk and sleeps by day – goes out at night carrying under his long coat a long knife with which he cuts up Indians. He uses their fat to oil his machines and their blood to sell to blood banks.” (Shakespeare 1989).

Although the traditional lik’ichiri is usually thought of as a native, its modern cousins are ‘foreigners’ and many are accused of being lik’ichiri and even assaulted. One American woman I spoke with in La Paz, who worked on the altiplano, said she had been warned not to be seen out at night; locals, whose attitude is better-safe-than-sorry, might attack first before they ask questions.

Despite its similarity to the vampire legend – the night attacks, the use of garlic, the draining of a bodily substance, an ability to put others to sleep and turn invisible, etc – Chavez sees no parallels between the two traditions: “One is fiction,” he said. “The other occurs right here.”

innocent.gif

Edited by mr_halo

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Falco Rex

Sounds like the Organ Thief legend although this one is much more ancient then our modern ones..

I think it probably came about like many of the vampire legends. As a means to explain cancer and other diseases. Note how the victims wounds were painless and disappeared overnight and yet they died without sufficient treatment..

It may have been used to explain how cancer patients seem to "Waste away" and grow thinner..

I think the modern version has just become a cultural scaremonger; long after there's any need of a supernatural fat-sucker to explain anything..

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JennRose

I think those spirits should haunt a Krispy Kreme.

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mr_halo
I think those spirits should haunt a Krispy Kreme.

601408[/snapback]

i don't get it huh.gif

innocent.gif

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Falco Rex

Krispy Kreme is a chain of donut shops over here..Get it? Fat Stealers?..nudge, nudge.. tongue.gif

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JennRose
I think those spirits should haunt a Krispy Kreme.

601408[/snapback]

i don't get it huh.gif

innocent.gif

601475[/snapback]

Sorry, I don't think these places have overtaken the UK like they have here in the US. It's a donut/pastery/bakery. They could find plenty of fat to suck from the patrons there.

Man, jokes are never good when you have to explain them. sad.gif

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mr_halo
I think those spirits should haunt a Krispy Kreme.

601408[/snapback]

i don't get it huh.gif

innocent.gif

601475[/snapback]

Sorry, I don't think these places have overtaken the UK like they have here in the US. It's a donut/pastery/bakery. They could find plenty of fat to suck from the patrons there.

Man, jokes are never good when you have to explain them. sad.gif

601487[/snapback]

mmmmmmm donuts tongue.gif

sorry i didn't get your joke, i'm sure others have laughed at it yes.gif

innocent.gif

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charnelhound

man fat people must love those things

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Undefined_innocence

LIPO SUCTION MONSTERS!!!!

anyhow... i think we all like 'those things'.

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mr_halo

i wonder why a creature would want human fat...

i mean i doubt its very nutritious no.gif

it would have very blocked up arteries yes.gif

innocent.gif

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