The skull with a hip-hop hat emblazoned with the emblem of New York Giants had a smouldering cigarette and coca leaves drooping from his non-existent lips. He grinned vacantly at me, something I guess skulls are quite good at.
Standing proudly next to him was Carlos, an elegantly dressed young man in black, who introduced the skull as Angel Flores Gutierrez, his elder brother who died several years ago. Normally skulls and death make me a bit cautious, but I soon found myself accepting the invitation of Carlos to have my photo with Angel.
Juliette and I posed next to the skull like happy holidaymakers. Perhaps the cheerful music of the Mariachi band wafting across gravestones at La Paz general cemetary was putting me at ease.
La Paz provided another stunning day on Saturday with the Fiesta de Gran Poder. Whirling cholitas, stamping men in brilliantly-bright costumes, whooping crowds, hordes of street sellers, cold beers and hot sunshine. A good finale to my first 15 months in Bolivia before I come back for Part 2. Click on the photo to see the gallery.
"Muy frio, muy frio," the dreadlocked man from the shadowed stage muttered into the mike. I shivered in agreement as I looked up into the naked black sky. The open air theatre might be the only big venue in La Paz, but at 11pm on a wintry night it is not a very enticing one even in a good set of thermals.
I wondered how the Wailers had ended up in La Paz, imagining it must feel like purgatory for sea-sprayed, sun-bathed Caribbeans.
The first band came on. We shuffled in time to keep warm. I greedily inhaled the warm fug of marijuana smoke as it rose past my nostrils. Cold air seeped slowly into bones. Thoughts of my duvet padded my mind.
But at midnight the Wailers made the stage and within minutes we were singing along to "Exodus", "Stir it up", "Stand up for your rights."
Soon I was jigging along arms wrapped around my enamorada Juliette. "...Three little birds upon my birdstep, singing sweet songs of melodies pure and true, this is my message to you, ooh, hoo." The crowd buzzed with warmth and bathed in sun-filled thoughts. "For every little thing is going to be alright." The cold slinked away. The Carribean had arrived in the Altiplano.
The town sits as if sheltering from agoraphobia, tucked under the dawn-lit hills clustered like islands in the sea-like Altiplano, a blur of ugly unfinished brick buildings, a monotony of red and dusty brown against a dizzy blue sky.
The rattling taxi hurtles around the blind corner. Lit up by the early sun a lorry full of tubas and trombones sparkles. Further down the street, a fiercely vibrant dragon's mask emerges from a rusty tin door, a stack of blue and gold costumes spill off the pavement.
The rustle of ankle-bells from a dancer with unseemingly large shoulder-pads chatter excitedly "carnival, carnival, carnival."
My eyes swept up the curvy body taking in the knee-high platform leather boots, the elegant dress hugging the figure, a beautifully painted face and the long black hair tucked in beneath a velvet hat. On seeing me, Dana's pert rosy lips broke into a smile.
Manouevering in his giant footwear, Dana made his way past the crowd of curious onlookers. He bent down and kissed me gracefully on the cheek.
On our previous encounter, Dana had looked quite different - a quiet gently-spoken Bolivian man of my age dressed in jeans and T-shirt who had introduced himself as David. There had been no exchange of kisses, just a firm shake of the hand. He had talked in a workshop on free trade about how economic and social policies affected not just his life, but his body. He said Bolivia needed a transformation at every level - not just economic and political, but changes in culture, attitudes, opening up identities.
A few days later, he invited me to see him and some of his friends on the Prado (Bolivia's main high street). "We are going to "transform." " I liked the drama in which he announced it. He explained he had had a stressful week, and that dressing and making himself up was a great way to unwind. He told me why he liked transforming into Dana: "Dana Galan is a great seducer. She doesn't have fear, is not afraid to transgress, she is open and free. With her, my body reflects my liberty."
Bolivia from the outside is hardly known for its transvestites or its transformistas. I have yet to seem them mentioned in any guidebooks, and they are not frequently interviewed for newspapers on the political situation in Bolivia. But as Bolivia goes through a very significant time in its history - with huge debates and division about the kind of politics and society it should have, I feel maybe the voices of Dana and the other transformistas have something important to say to all Bolivians. After all, doesn't transformation start with ourselves...? And what is more our "self" than our body?