Antonio Paredes Candia

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Antonio Paredes Candia (10 July 1924, La Paz – 12 December 2004) was one of the most prolific writers and researchers of Bolivia with over 100 books written during his lifetime. All of the books were written and published without any grants or financial aid from the government. He is considered an icon of the Bolivian culture and identity. His work focuses mainly on Bolivian folklore, primarily focusing on the country's traditions, characters, customs and superstitions.

Antonio Paredes Candia is buried in the courtyard of the museum named after him in the city of El Alto.


Early life[edit]

Jose Antonio Paredes Candia was born on July 10 of 1924 in the city of La Paz in a well-known political and intellectual family of Bolivia. He was the son of the famous Bolivian historian Don M. Rigoberto Paredes Iturri and Doña Haydee Candia Torrico. From his mother, Jose Antonio inherited his passion for the literature and his talent as a researcher from his father.

He spent his entire childhood in a house located on the intersection of Sucre and Junín, in a typical neighborhood in the north of La Paz. His siblings were Orestes, Mercedes, Doña Elsa Salazar Paredes, a writer and a public intellectual, and an eccentric businessman Rigoberto Paredes Candia. Rigoberto was a father of 18 children and the owner of the hotel that was built on the same location of their old house. Paradoxically, Antonio died 80 years later in that house.

Antonio's mother was an enthusiastic art lover and was widely known for her love for classical music. She awoke in her son the love for literature and music at a very young age. It was very common to find her sitting by the door of her house, singing famous opera arias accompanied by the guitar music. Inspired by the atmosphere in his home, Antonio began writing since an early age.

He attended the Felix Reyes Ortiz high school, where he studied together with Raúl Salmón de la Barra, who would later become a famous pioneer in the Bolivian folk theater.


When Antonio was 20 years old, he enlisted in the military service for almost two years in the "Abaroa Regiment" located in the city of La Paz. It was his military experience that gave him a direct understanding of a reality of the Bolivian people and would later shape his passion, fate and research.

He always had a strong inclination for teaching that forced him to travel to the furthest corners of the country. He would always bring his bundles of books to teach in several regions of highland mining centers and the south of the country during the 1940s and 1950s. Due to the needs of the audience that he was teaching, Antonio developed a very simple linguistic style that he used in his books. He was aware that his books were not written for the country's intellectual elite but for the lay people who did not read on a regular basis or had access to any kind of information at all. He said, "(...) I thought and knew that I had to deliver the book in the hands of our people, and that was my goal. (...) For me, the writer is just another laborer in society, not the privileged being who sits on an altar of mud. The writer, more than any other, should convey his thought somehow guiding the society (...) I think there lies the success of my tales for children, because without political propaganda they convey the problems that we should be aware of and the ones we should try to fix".

For an extensive period during his youth, he undertook numerous trips with his puppet theater that he had created. He chose the most remote places in the country and armed with their puppets, boxes of books, and a few personal possessions, he launched a heroic affair of spreading culture within a country where the majority of its population, the indigenous people, had been denied access not only to any kind of information but also their civil rights. It was during this period that he became the familiar figure of "Tío Antonio" (Uncle Antonio), the white "Amauta" (mystic man) who was coming from the city to those unknown villages that no one had ever visited before him.


Since then he devoted his life to the arduous task of transmitting the passion for literature and the country's own customs to the people of Bolivia. It was during this period that he discovered that Bolivia has the interest to know more about their writers, but not the means to access them. Because of that he founded the "street fair of popular culture" on which he went out to sell books on the street. This broke with the image of the bourgeois intellectual writer, becoming rather the poet of the people, one that interacts directly with them. Several writers joined these famous fairs, and now a day they are placed permanently in the city of La Paz in a passage called Maria Nunez del Prado.

His love for research made him one of the most read writers among Bolivians, with a collection of more than 100 books written in life. He wrote about customs, traditions, legends, crafts, stories, but also deep and specific investigations. He never used any kind of sponsorship, grant or foreign aid. He created his story with his own hands, without the help or approval of anyone.

Personally, Don Antonio was a person with a pleasant conversation, full of anecdotes about Bolivian characters and world history. It is said that walking the streets with him supposed to receive a master class in Bolivian history. The good humor was always part of his life besides his immense love for children and animals. It is well known the enormous love he felt for his little dog and life companion Isolde.

He never got married, but he adopted the son of his childhood friend that he met at the ranch of his father Don Rigoberto. Huascar Paredes Candia is the only son of Don Antonio and the responsible of the collection of books and of publishing them.

In the last years of his life, Antonio Paredes Candia decided to donate his private art collection to the city of El Alto. The collection was estimated to be worth half a million dollars in Bolivian artworks, sculptures, and archaeological pieces saved from the hands of "guaqueros" (looters). This entire heritage paired him all his life and now lies in the first museum of the city of El Alto since 2002, one of the most complete museums of Bolivia.

On 2004 he is diagnosed with liver cancer. After the doctor explains that he has little remained of life he is immediately taken to a room at the hotel of his younger brother Rigoberto to spend what would be his last weeks. Countless amounts of people gather at the hotel to visit him every day until his last breath. Don Antonio is finally able to witness the true result of his work. After so many years, his work reached the public he had looked for. Before his death he was named Doctor Honoris Causa by the Franz Tamayo University of the city of La Paz, followed by several other awards from the authorities of the city.

He died on December 12 of 2004 in an apartment at the Hotel Victoria located on Sucre Street on the city of La Paz. The apartment was built on the same site as the house in which Candia was born. His funeral was veiled with a string quartet from El Alto followed by a long procession of countless people accompanying the coffin to the gates of the museum, including a little band of street kids that joined that back of the parade with instruments constructed by them, using buckets as drums and tubes as pan flutes. "Tío Antonio" had died and the whole city of El Alto was mourning.

Don Antonio, who remained lucid until his last seconds, gave precise instructions on the protocol to be followed at his funeral. Among these instructions, he decided to be buried at the gates in the entrance of the museum, in between two layers of lime. On his grave was erected a statue with the figure that everyone remembers, his long coat, scarf and umbrella, like an old fashion gentleman. On his deathbed is the inscription "Dust to dust". He now remains in the museum as a guardian of the works he donated in his life. "My remains are buried at the museum in order to keep this entire heritage, and anyone that dares to take a painting or work of art, I'll take him with me. Be careful".

Paredes Candia books remain among the most widely read, especially the books for children that are part of the national syllabus in elementary schools. Unfortunately the re-edition of them as well as the care of the museum has been pushed to the sidelines. Nearly 80 percent of the writer's work is exhausted and not being printed again so it is disappearing very quickly. The museum is also not properly taken care of, which makes one wonder why the family of Paredes Candia remain in silence while such a barbarian act is committed with his work and heritage, like it has unfortunately been seen before with other great characters.

The people of El Alto constructed a monument to the memory of Candia at the entrance to Ciudad Satélite.

Selected works[edit]

  • Literatura folklórica
  • Los pájaros en los cuentos de nuestro folklore
  • El folklore escrito en la ciudad de La Paz
  • Folklore en el valle de Cochabamba: el sombrero
  • Folklore en el valle de Cochabamba: dos fiestas populares
  • Todos santos en Cochabamba
  • Comercio popular en la ciudad de La Paz
  • Fiestas populares de la ciudad de La Paz
  • Folklore de la Hacienda Mollepampa
  • Bibliografía del folklore boliviano
  • La danza folklórica en Bolivia
  • Antología de tradiciones y leyendas. Tomos I, II, III, IV, V
  • Artesanías e industrias populares de Bolivia
  • Juegos, juguetes y divertimentos del folklore boliviano
  • La trágica vida de Ismael Sotomayor y Mogrovejo
  • Brujerías, tradiciones y leyendas de Bolivia. Tomo I, II, III, IV, V
  • Selección de teatro boliviano para niños
  • Vocablos aymaras en el habla popular paceña
  • Diccionario mitológico de Bolivia
  • Cuentos populares bolivianos
  • Adivinanzas de doble sentido
  • Adivinanzas bolivianas para niños
  • Refranes, frases y expresiones populares de Bolivia
  • Fiestas de Bolivia. Tomo I y II
  • El apodo en Bolivia
  • Voces de trabajo, invocaciones y juramentos populares
  • El sexo en el folklore boliviano
  • Costumbres matrimoniales indígenas
  • De la tradición paceña
  • El Zambo salvito
  • Kjuchi cuentos
  • Once anécdotas del libertador
  • Cuentos bolivianos para niños
  • Poesía popular boliviana (de la tradición oral)
  • Las mejores tradiciones y leyendas de Bolivia
  • Folklore de Potosí
  • Tradiciones orureñas
  • El folklore en la ciudad de La Paz. Dos fiestas populares: el carnaval y la navidad
  • Cuadernos del folklore boliviano
  • Cuentos de curas
  • Otros cuentos de curas
  • Anécdotas bolivianas
  • Penúltimas anécdotas bolivianas
  • Las Alacitas (fiesta popular de la ciudad de La Paz)
  • La comida popular boliviana
  • Aventuras de dos niños
  • Teatro boliviano para niños
  • Cuentos de maravilla para niños (de almas, duendes y aparecidos)
  • Ellos no tenían zapatos
  • Los hijos de la Correista
  • El Rutuchi (una costumbre Antigua)
  • La historia de Gumercindo
  • El molino quemado
  • La chola boliviana
  • Otras anécdotas bolivianas
  • Últimas anécdotas bolivianas
  • Leyendas de Bolivia
  • Tradiciones de Bolivia
  • Brujerías de Bolivia
  • Estribillos populares de carácter político
  • Literatura oral del Beni
  • Diccionario del saber popular. Tomos I y II
  • Isolda (la historia de una perrita)
  • Doña Fily
  • Las muchas caras de mi ciudad
  • La bellísima Elena
  • El castigo
  • Bandoleros, salteadores y raterillos
  • De rameras, burdeles y proxenetas
  • Juegos tradicionales bolivianos
  • La serenata y el adorado pasacalle
  • "De profundis clamavi"
  • Algunos aperos populares en la vida campesina
  • Anécdotas de gobernantes y gobernados
  • Letreros, murales y graffitis
  • El banquete: su historia y tradición en Bolivia
  • Folklore y tradición referente al mundo animal
  • Folklorización del cuento Español en la cultura popular boliviana
  • Teatro de Guiñol
  • Gastronomía nacional y literatura
  • La muru imilla
  • Mis cuentos para niños
  • Tukusiwa o la muerte
  • Folklore de Cochabamba
  • Lenguaje mímico
  • Quehaceres femeninos