Thursday, January 24, 2013


Today is the kick-off of one of my favorite Bolivian celebrations: Alasitas.

To explain Alasitas, I take a paragraph from the Lonely Planet guide book:  "During Inca times the Alasitas Fair ("buy from me" in Aymara) coincided with the spring equinox (September 21), and was intended to demonstrate the abundance of the fields.  The date underwent some shifts during the Spanish colonial period, which the campesinos weren't too happy about.  In effect they decided to turn the celebration into a kitschy mockery of the original.  'Abundance' was redefined to apply not only to crops, but also homes, tools, cash, clothing, and lately, cars, trucks, airplanes and even 12-story buildings.  The little god of abundance, Ekeko ("dwarf" in Aymara), made his appearance and modern Alasitas traditions are now celebrated every January 24th"...and for a couple weeks following."

A vendor displays the Ekeko, the keeper and distributor of material possessions, surrounded by tiny replicas of the things that the person wants.  The Ekeko's mouth is black from smoking too many cigarettes.

Public parks and plazas throughout major Bolivian cities and municipalities (like the town of Coroico) were crowded today with people looking to buy small versions of nearly anything you can imagine: cars, hats, dolls, candy, furniture, appliances, airline tickets, diplomas, food, and money--lots of tiny Bolivian bills and US dollars. "Buy the money, Señorita," one man told me. "And it will bring you more money!"

That, in essence, is the idea of Alasitas. All of the tiny items represent things that people either aspire to own or want to achieve/accomplish.  If you want to own a car or truck, for example, you buy a small car/truck.  If you want to travel in the coming year, you would buy a tiny passport. Once you make your purchase, you have a yatiri, or shaman, bless your purchased goods. Then, you wait for the "wish" to come true within the year.

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