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Holidays and Festivals in Bolivia

The most unique regional festival in Bolivia is almost certainly the Chiquitos Music Festival, which takes place in April or May, every two years. The Chiquitos region, one of the poorest regions of Bolivia (and therefore one of the poorest regions in the continent) is mainly known for cattle ranching. This lowland region has an interesting history, however: it was here that several Jesuit missions were established during the colonial era. Ten missions in total were founded: six have been restored after centuries of neglect. The Jesuits used music as an important element of their evangelization of the natives, and during a recent renovation, a treasure trove of music composed and performed by Jesuits and natives during the colonial era was discovered. Now, every year, classical musicians from around the world travel to these missions to play this music and that of their home countries. For more information, visit our V!VA list piece here.

 

Another important holiday is Inti Raymi, held annually in June in many parts of Bolivia. Inti Raymi is a holiday that has lasted since Inca times, and celebrates the sun. The largest Inti Raymi festival is held annually in Cuzco, Peru, but many places in Bolivia celebrate it as well. It is celebrated usually with traditional dances and parades to honor the sun. For centuries, celebrating Inti Raymi was forbidden by the Catholic Church: the last official Inti Raymi was performed in 1535. About fifty years ago, however, native Andeans began celebrating it again, relying (ironically) on Spanish chronicles and religious treatises from the colonial period to describe the festivities.

Fiesta de la Virgen de Candelaria: This festival, held on February second all over South America, is primarily celebrated in Bolivia in Copacabana, a sleepy little town on Lake Titicaca. For a week, this laid-back town is host to parades, celebrations and music. People even drive in from all over the country: they believe that if the Virgin of Copacabana blesses their car, it’ll be safe from thieves and accidents. There are usually more tourists than facilities: be sure to make reservations if you intend to go.

La Diablada, or “the dance of the devils,” is a big deal in Bolivia. It is an annual parade of sorts in Oruro, capital of Oruro province. It is a fascinating cultural mish-mash of Andean and Spanish religious customs, with a bit of conquest history thrown in for good measure. It lasts several days at carnival time (it runs at the same time as Brazil’s famous carnival) and attracts performers and visitors from around the world. By the time it is through, a typical Diablada will have featured 28,000 dancers and 10,000 musicians, in a series of processions over the course of 20 hours. The dancers wear a variety of costumes, including devils, demons, Incas and Spaniards. The festival ends with two plays: one is about the Spanish conquest, and the other is about Archangel Michael and the forces of good triumphing over the Devil and the forces of evil. The festival has ended with the same two plays for decades. Oruro is not a very big city, and rooms are limited, so visitors will want to make their reservations far in advance or bring a tent.

El Gran Poder, a festival honoring Jesus Christ, takes place every year in late May or early June in La Paz. The festival has its roots in a painting of the holy trinity that is allegedly responsible for several miracles, but has grown into a large street party, with dancing, processions, drinking and more.










By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
22 Mar 2007




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