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Carnaval in Oruro

The Carnaval de Oruro (Carnival of Oruro) is Bolivia's biggest festival and it takes place each year during the first week of February in the small town of Oruro. In 2001, UNESCO declared the festival to be a “masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity.”


Located in the mountains of western Bolivia, Oruro was once a pre-Colombian ceremonial site. Even after the Spanish resettled the site in 1606, the Uru people considered it a sacred place; they made long pilgrimages to Oruro to perform rituals, especially for their Ito festival. The Spanish banned the Urus' Ito ceremonies in the seventeenth century, but the Uru simply concealed their practices behind a mask of Christian worship. They turned their Andean gods into Christian icons and their Andean divinities into Christian saints.


The new Christian version of the Ito festival begins forty days before Easter, on Candlemas. The festival lasts ten days and begins with a ceremony dedicated to the Virgen del Socavon, or Virgin of the Mineshaft. It is said that in 1789 a mural of the Virgin Mary appeared in the mineshaft of the richest silver mine in Oruro. Because of that miracle most of the carnival's important events occur in and around the Church of the Mineshaft, or Santuaria del Socavon.


The lengthy carnival involves an abundance of marching bands, dancers and other art forms. The main dance of the festival is the diablada in worship of the Uru god Tiw. The opening procession, the biggest event of the carnival, lasts twenty hours and more than 28,000 dancers take part.


At the end of the procession two plays are performed- one about the Spanish conquest, and the other about the classic battle between good and evil (this one was introduced by Catholic clergy in 1818).

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni Tours (Salt Flats Tours), Salar de Uyuni Highlights (Salt Flats Tour Highlights), When to go to Sucre, Salar de Uyuni and Southwestern Lakes, Climate of Bolivia, Music in Bolivia, Living in Bolivia, Etiquette in Bolivia, Services and Safety.

11 Dec 2009

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