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Holidays, Festivals and Events in Bolivia

Comprehensive list of holidays, festivals and events around Bolivia. Carnaval, Gran Poder, Alasitas, Pujllay, Phujllay, All Saints Day, Chutillos, Ch'utillos, Urqupina, Urkupina, Virgen de Guadalupe.

Date Holiday Festival Events Location
January 1 New Year     National
January 24   Alasitas   La Paz
February 2   Virgen de la Candelaria   Copacabana
February 10 Local Holiday     Oruro
February or March   Carnaval and La Diablada   Oruro
February or March   Carnaval del Oriente   Santa Cruz
February or March   Corso de Corsos   Cochabamba
Second Sunday in March   Pujllay   Tarabuco
March 23   Sea Day   National
March or April Good Friday and Easter     National
April 15 Local Holiday     Tarija
Last Weekend in April     Feria Internacional de Cochabamba Cochabamba
April     Theater International Festival Santa Cruz
May 1 Labor Day     National
May 2-4   Fiesta de la Cruz - Tinku   Macha
First Weekend in May   Santa Vera Cruz Tatala   Cochabamba
May 25 Local Holiday     Chuquisaca
May     Museums Free Entrance at Night La Paz
May or June Corpus Christi     National
Late May or early June   El Gran Poder   La Paz
June 21 Andean New Year     National
July 16 Local Holiday     La Paz
July 25   Santiago de Toro Toro   Toro Toro
July 31   Santo Patron de Moxos   San Ignacio de Moxos
July     Feria Exposiciones La Paz La Paz
Last Weekend in July   Entrada Universitaria La Paz   La Paz
First Week in August     Feria Internacional del Libro La Paz
August 5   Virgen de Copacabana   Copacabana
August 6 Independence Day     National
August 10 - 13   San Lorenzo   San Lorenzo
August 15 - 18   Virgen de Urcupiña   Quillacollo
Last Weekend in August   Chutillos   Potosí
First Weekend in September   San Roque   Tarija
First Weekend in September   Virgen de Guadalupe   Sucre
September 14 Local Holiday     Cochabamba
September 24 Local Holiday     Santa Cruz and Pando
Last Weekend in September     Feria Internacional de Santa Cruz Santa Cruz
Last Wekkend in October     Feria Internacional de La Paz FIPAZ La Paz
November 1 All Saints Day     National
November 2 All Souls Day     National
November 10 Local Holiday     Potosi
November 18 Local Holiday     Beni
December 25 Christmas Day     National

Carnaval de Oruro and Diablada Festival

Carnaval de Oruro and Diablada Festival

Say Carnaval and what images come to mind? Fantastically and scantily garbed dancers, pounding samba rhythms, parades, incessant revelry? Carnaval de Oruro, Bolivia?

In Bolivia, Oruro, Santa Cruz, Tarija and La Paz hold carnavals but the carnaval in Oruro,is the most famous. It takes place for the eight days preceeding Ash Wednesday. Unlike carnaval in Rio where the escolas de samba choose a new theme each year, carnaval in Oruro always begins with the diablada or devil dance. The diablada is a centuries-old ritual surviving unchanged from colonial days.

Next are hundreds of devils in monstrous costumes. The heavy masks have horns bulging eyes fangs long hair and in contrast to the frightening masks the devils wear sparkling breastplates silk embroidered shawls and golden spurs. Between the devils groups of dancers dressed as monkeys pumas and insects caper to the music from brass bands, or pipers or drummers. The noise is loud and frenzied.

Out of the devil dancers comes China Supay, the Devil's wife, who dances a seductive dance to entice the Archangel Michael. Around her dance the members of local workers unions, each carrying a small symbol of their union such as pickaxes or shovels. Dancers dressed as Incas with condor headdresses and suns and moons on their chests dance along with dancers dressed as the black slaves imported by the Spaniards to work in the silver mines.

Family members led by the matriarchs in yellow dresses appear in order: first the husbands dressed in red, next come the daughters in green, followed by the sons in blue. The families dance their way to the football stadium where the next part of the celebrations takes place.

Two plays begun, as medieval mystery plays, are enacted. The first portrays the Conquest by the Spanish conquistadores. The second is the triumph of the Archangel Michael as he defeats the devils and the Seven Deadly Sins with his flaming sword. The results of the battle are announced the Patron Saint of the Miners the Virgen del Socavon and the dancers sing a Quecha hymn.

Although the references to the Spanish conquest and the downtrodden state of the Bolivian peasants are very clear, this festival is based on the pre-Colonial ceremony of giving thanks to the earth-mother Pachamama. It commemorates the struggles of good and evil and the early Catholic priests allowed it to continue with a Christian overlay in an effort to pacify the local natives.

The celebration of carnaval continues for days as the diablada dancers break into smaller groups and continue dancing around huge bonfires. Onlookers join the procession at any point and with the consumption of strong Bolivian beer and the very potent chicha made from fermented cereals and corn they get rowdy. Many sleep in doorways or where they fall until they awake and continue celebrating. If you plan to be in Oruro or any of the towns celebrating carnaval, follow the basic safety precautions:

Carnaval de Santa Cruz

Carnaval de Santa Cruz

Reflects the joyful spirit of the people of Santa Cruz. Begins one month prior to the holidays, 'precarnavaleras' involving all the groups led by their Queen youth. A week before the carnival takes place on minicorso which takes place in the proclamation of the sovereign's annual Carnival.

From late afternoon of Saturday to dawn Sunday of the carnival takes place in the stunning Corso that 'jump' around 300 groups. They roam the city streets to the beat of bands and 'tamborita'. During the tour the visitor can admire a framework luxury overflowing in beautiful and colorful fantasies, impressive floats carrying the queens, also perceive the attempt to rescue the regional motifs and respect the environment.

The show reaches its maximum splendor when the Santa Cruz carnival queen with all his court constituted by members of the troupe crowning.

This holiday the women is the main protagonist because, when fully dressed, makes choosing their own partner, flirting and dancing inviting men who attend these parties. The public can see that the entry of the group is divided into three folk: regional, national and international levels.

Also participate in this event Joint typical among which are those of the Chiquitanía entering the accompaniment of drums are chovenas (Eastern rhythm).

Frenzy continues on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, days in which people dance and enjoy themselves in the streets of the city playing with water, paint and foam, living moments of total joy.

Labor Day or May Day

Corso de Corsos

If you are traveling in Latin America on the first day of May, you can expect to find banks, government offices, stores, post offices and businesses closed for the day as people celebrate the Día Internacional Del Trabajo with parades, demonstrations and other symbols of solidarity with the worker.

Bolivia celebrated Día Internacional del Trabajo for the first time on May 1, 1936. Day of the Worker, or May Day, had already been established in Europe, and would shortly sweep across the Latin American countries.

The communist and socialist countries embraced the day, and over time, May Day became associated with those political systems in many non-English speaking countries.

In Paris in 1889 the International Working Association of Men(the First International) declared May 1st an international working class holiday in commemoration of the Haymarket Martyrs. The red flag became the symbol of the blood of working class martyrs in their battle for workers rights.

The Origins And Traditions Of Mayday

Who were the Haymarket Martyrs? They are all but ignored in the history of the United States, who moved the May Day labor celebrations to September. May Day: what happened to the radical workers holiday? The first Monday in September is now the Labor Day holiday, but it has very little to do with the reason for a working man's holiday. This history is detailed in May Day - the Real Labor Day.

Long before May Day, The Workers' Day, born in the struggle for the eight-hour day came to be, the first of May was a traditional day of feasting, celebrating spring, fertility, romance and more.

The Pagan Origins of May Day asks Why did the Labour Movement choose May Day as International Labour Day? It's more that May Day chose the Labour Movement. Unlike Easter, Whitsun or Christmas, May Day is the one festival of the year for which there is no significant church service. Because of this it has always been a strong secular festival, particularly among working people who in previous centuries would take the day off to celebrate it as a holiday, often clandestinely without the support of their employer. It was a popular custom, in the proper sense of the word - a people's day - so it was naturally identified with the Labour and socialist movements and by the twentieth century it was firmly rooted as part of the socialist calendar.

So now you know why everything shuts down on May 1. It is a good idea to play it safe that day and stay away from parades and rallies that might prove explosive.

Gran Poder

Corso de Corsos

The merging of pre-Columbian religions and the Roman Catholic faith created a number of religious observations, including the Fiesta del Gran Poder celebrated primarily in La Paz, Bolivia. The event began in the late 1930's with a small number of dancers and is today a huge event.

The festival centers around the devotion to Christ as the second person in the Holy Trinity based on an anonymous painting of the Trinity dating from the early XVII century. The three entities were painted withIndian or mestizo features. Though the Catholic church had forbidden human representations of the Holy Trinity, a young novice named Genoveva Carrión took it with her when she entered the Monasterio de la Purísima Concepción. When the religious order downsized, the painting found its way into different lay hands, finally ending up with Plácido López who lived in the barrio Chijini in la Paz.

A small chapel was built to honor the Holy Trinity and then Bishop Augsto Scheifert direct two not-quite-expert artists to paint over the two side figures. They did so, but one, wanting to retouch the eyes, came back one night. When the remaining figure moved its head, the artist fled, but many favors or miracles were attributed to the Christ figure. Devotion grew and in 1939 the chapel was officially named Iglesia Parroquial del Gran Poder.

In the years since, the festival of El Gran Poder has grown into an international celebration. Parades and processions with the dark figure of the Christ (see photo), music and costumed dancers honoring cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Of these, La Morenada is the most famous.

Held annually at the beginning of June, the Fiesta del Gran Poder is La Paz's biggest street party. Copious amount of local beers and food are consumed. Visitors wanting a place to stay during the celebrations make advance reservations.

Santiago de Toro Toro

Corso de Corsos

En Torotoro, un aldea grande, situada en la provincia Charcas, al norte del departamento de Potosi-Bolivia, el 25 de julio, varias comunidades esparcidas en esta insólita región, se reúnen para los festejos de San Santiago El Mayor.

Comparsas de nativos, lujosamente ataviados, llegan al pueblo acompañados por la más pura música andina, jecutada en aerófonos (jula - julas) y charangos, instrumento que tiene 5 pares de cuerdas y una pequeña caja de resonancia. Aunque el charango denota en su concepción nítida influencia europea, es, en sí mismo, un instrumento inventado por los músicos nativos. Del charango nacen maravillosas melodías y poemas musicales excelsos.

Sin temor al equívoco se puede afirmar que la más pura música andina se conserva en el norte del departamento de Potosí.

En Torotoro, (así como en Macha, Pocoata, Pujro, etc; poblaciones del norte de Potosí), se dan cita los pueblos regionales para relizar el Tinku (palabra queschwa: duelo o encuentro) tradición que se trasnporta desde la precolonia a la actualidad. Entre los pueblos agricultores se dieron, y todavías se producen, litigios por el agua de riego, por las de dehesas o, incluso por el uso de la tierra. Seguramente -en el pasado- las devergencias concluían en cruentas guerras entre los comuneros.

Estas lides que llevaban consigo derramamiento estéril de sangre, fueron resueltas por los hombres de los valles centrales del actual Bolivia, acudiendo a una forma de juicio de Dios, consistente en que las comunidades nombraban paladines para que solo elllos. -en representación de la colectividad- tuviesen un duelo, cuyo ganador conseguían -para su comunidad- la imposisión de los derechos reclamados. Los vencidos acataban el resultaado del Tinku, que solo era temporal, porque un nuevo encuentro podía alterar el resultado anterior.

En la actualidad el Tinku, solo tiene en estas poblaciones, y algunas del Departamento de Cochabamba, carácter simbólico y de conservación de las tradiciones. El Tinku, en el que hombres de una aldea se enfrentan a los de otra a golpes de puño y latigazos, se lo ofrece al o los santos, en las fiestas católicas.

Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos

Corso de Corsos

Los primeros grupos humanos, afincados en la cuenca amazónica, estaban constituidos por pescadores y cazadores que, en los ríos encontraron una fauna ictiológica riquísima y, en las llanuras, rebaños de cérvidos, piaras de cerdos salvajes, y varias otras especies de animales. Pero... las tierras de esta vasta región -aparentemente fértiles- están conformadas por mantas de arena y lutitas aluvionales del cuaternario, que se asientan sobre densos estratos de arcillas impermeables, añadiéndose el hecho de que -en la mayor parte de la sabana- el declive es de solo un metro en 10 Km. Tierras impermeables y con escaso declive, prácticamente no tienen suficiente drenaje, dando como resultante el anegamiento de extensas áreas cuando llegan las lluvias del verano. Sin embargo, cuando los grupos humanos lograron su sedentarización definitiva, en base a la agricultura, lo hicieron en tierras en los que tuvieron que fabricar terrenos de labranza, generando, a su vez, la más alta tecnología agrícola de su momento con la erección de plataformas junto a las que -en paralelo- hicieron grandes zanjas-diques, en las que, en contrario a nuestra lógica, estancaron el agua. En los trópicos -casi como si fuera producto de generación espontánea- la vida vegetal aprovecha cualquier medio para asociarse: en el agua detenida prosperan rápidamente plantas acuáticas que, en muy poco tiempo, forman una espesa alfombra (tarope) que quita de la vista el líquido en el que medran. También junto con el fluido de las crecientes, llegan peces, crustáceos, moluscos, batracios, insectos, etc. que hacían colonias en el agua embalsada. cuando la vida bullía en los zanjones, el inteligente hombre practicaba un orificio en la parte baja de la pared del dique para que el líquido se escurra lentamente dando lugar a que la alfombra vegetal descienda hasta el lecho del dique donde, además, quedaban atrapado los seres vivos. La putrefacción de los organismos producía ácido húmico y otros nutrientes que, luego, se esparcían sobre los terraplenes.

Este ingenioso artificio permitió a los hombres asentados en las llanuras de Moxos (Dpto. de Beni-Bolivia), crear ad perpetuam nutrientes orgánicos con cuya ayuda pudo decuplicar sus cosechas de maíz, calabazas, yuca o mandioca, maní, ajíes, frijoles o algodón. No todo queda en lo dicho: la cultura moxeña levantó unas 20.000 islas artificiales (mounds), sobre las que el hombre hizo sus viviendas. Unió sus islas con terraplenes que cumplían una doble función: a) permitir el tránsito de un mound a otro y b) conducir el agua hacia donde ellos deseaban. Completando esta gigantesca tarea unieron las arterias fluviales, con canales navegables. La alta cultura moxeña -verdadera maestra en el dominio de la ingeniería hidráulica- por causas no suficientemente bien aclaradas, se extinguió entre los siglos XI al XII, de nuestra era.

La región de las llanuras, salpicadas de tupidos bosques, fué habitada -después del derrumbe de la gran cultura- por varias tribus selvícolas en cuya memoria apenas quedaron vago recuerdos de su ancestro. A pesar de ello conservaron resabios de su concepción religiosa. Si volcamos la mirada hacia San Ignacio de Moxos, donde los jesuitas fundaron una de sus primeras misiones evangelizadoras, advertiremos que en las fiestas religiosas cristianas, que los nativos celebran con devoción, se hace patente un profundo sincretismo religioso. En esta fiestas se presentan comunidades luciendo coloridas vestimentas y vistosos disfraces.

Si detenemos nuestra atención en los grupos de danzarines y, singularmente, en los atuendos que hacen gala reparamos que -en su mayoría- representan animales propios de la región, demostrando que sus antiguos cultos totémicos aún mantienen vigencia. A estos disfraces se añade la representación del Sol y de la Luna, deidades claramente asumidas por los pueblos agricultores pero, nítidamente contrarias a la filosofía cristiana. Los conjuntos de macheteros, con su vistoso tocado de plumas de paraba, vestidos con camijetas, una suerte de saya blanca tejida por las comunidades en telares verticales; que llevan en la mano un machete de maderra, simbolizanuna danza guerrera ancestral, por supuesto no cristiana.

En un medio donde el jaguar acecha mimetizado entre el follaje para dar el salto sobre el hombre; allí donde ponzañosas serpientes pueden inocular tósigos letales; en sitios donde los saurios (caimanes) y las anacondas (sicuríes) aguardan a los incautos, el temor cobran formas reales. Las supersticiones envuelven a las comunidades, como aquella anunciada por el estridente!, triste lamento de un búho que cuando llora o canta cerca a la aldea anuncia muerte o calamidad.

Ah, pero los hombres asumen -también como propia- la religión llegada con la conquista europea; la sienten y se compenetran de ella y vibran en sus espíritus como lo hacen los tubos de sus aerófonos nativos, entre los que sobresale el bajón del que manan notas graves y monótonas; si, sus alamas treman al paso del arco sobre las cuerdasm de los violines, fabricados por ellos, pero adoptados de los curas misioneros. La música de sus Taquiraris se hace rítmica en los taambores o en las tobillerashechas con uñas de anta, que a cada paso del danzante marcan el compás.

Las plumas de parabas, sujetadas en abanico sobre las testas de los macheteros, son como el toque mágico de la madre naturaleza que engalana a sus hijos con colores salvajemente bellos. Esas plumas de piyo (avestruz) que cuelgan de la cintura de los Ichiñisiris traen a la memoria hombres desnudosque, en su desnudez, se sienten vestidos si solo están adornados.

All Saints Day

Corso de Corsos

November 1 is celebrated throughout the Catholic world as Día de Todos Santos, or All Saints Day, to honor all the saints, known and unknown, of the Catholic faithful. Every day of the year has its own saint or saints, but there are more saints than calendar days, and this one major holy day honors them all, including those who had died in a state of grace but had not been canonized. And, to keep things fair, November 2 is celebrated as the Day of All Souls.

Día de Todos Santos is also known as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Like many other Catholic celebrations, in the New World it was grafted onto existing indigenous festivities to meld the new Catholicism with the old pagan beliefs.

In countries where the Europeans eventually reduced the indigenous populations, by one means or another, the celebrations gradually lost their native meaning and became more of a traditional Catholic event.

In Latin American countries where the indigenous culture is still strong, such as in Guatemala and Mexico in Central America, and in Bolivia in South America, Día de Todos Santosis an important meld of many influences.

In Central America, the dead are honored by visits to the their gravesites, often with food, flowers and all family members. In Bolivia, the dead are expected to return to their homes and villages.

The Andean emphasis is agricultural, since November 1 is in spring south of the Equator. It is the time of returning rains and the reflowering of the earth. The souls of the dead also return to reaffirm life.

During this time, the doors are opened to guests, who enter with clean hands and share in the traditional dishes, particularly the favorites of the deceased. Tables are bedecked with bread figurines called tantawawas, sugarcane, chicha, candies and decorated pastries.

At the cemeteries, the souls are greeted with more food, music, and prayers. Rather than a sad occasion, the Día de Todos Santos is a joyous event.

In Peru, November 1 is celebrated nationally, but in Cuzco its known as Día de todos los Santos Vivos, or Day of the Living Saints and celebrated with food, particularly the famed suckling pig and tamales. November 2 is considered the Día de los Santos Difuntosor Day of the Deceased Saints and is honored with visits to cemeteries.

Wherever you are in Latin America on the first and second of November, enjoy the local holidays!.

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