Alasitas Festival in La Paz Date in the current year: January 24, 2022

Alasitas Festival in La Paz The Alasitas festival, also known as the Alasitas fair (Feria de las Alasitas) is an annual event held in the Bolivian city of La Paz. Kicking off on January 24, it is a month-long festival honoring Ekeko, the Tiwanakan god of prosperity and abundance.

Ekeko is a pre-Columbian god originating in the mythology and folklore of the indigenous peoples of the Central Andes. He is still a big part of the culture of the Aymara people, who mainly live in Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina.

Ekeko is typically depicted as a short, plump, smiling man with a mustache. He is wearing a traditional Andean poncho and holding numerous bags and baskets fool of food, various household items, currency bills, and other objects one may want or need for a comfortable life. People keep statuettes of Ekeko in their homes, leaving small bills and cigarettes as an offering, and wear miniature Ekeko figurines as keychains for good luck.

This is how Ekeko is imagined today. During the pre-Columbian era, roughly between 500 and 1000 AD, stone figurines of Ekeko had prominent humps and phallic elements. They were used in rituals during the December summer solstice celebrations (in the Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs on December 22). People would ask Ekeko for good luck, offering him miniatures of the things they wished to have.

When the Spanish arrived to South America, they discouraged indigenous peoples from worshiping their gods and celebrating their festivals. However, the situation somewhat changed after the 1781 siege of La Paz by a group of the Aymara led by Túpac Katari. After the defeat of the Aymara, Governor Sebastian de Segurola re-established the celebration in honor of Ekeko as a sign of good will. However, the moved it to January 24 to honor the city’s patron saint, Our Lady of Peace (Nuestra Señora de La Paz).

The cult of Ekeko was slowly reintroduced and, as a result, the present-day Alasitas festival is a mixture of pre-Columbian rituals and Christian traditions. On January 24, people from all over Bolivia come to La Paz to buy miniature versions of the objects they wish to have or achieve in the following year: food, clothes, electronics, various household items, cars, houses, and even university diplomas.

Many people have their figurines blessed by a traditional shaman or by a Catholic priest at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. After that, they give miniatures to their friends and family, hoping that the recipients will get the real items some time in the following year.

In 2017, UNESCO added ritual journeys to La Paz during Alasitas to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In addition, the intangible cultural heritage of Aymara communities in Bolivia, Chile and Peru, which includes the Alasitas festival, has been on UNESCO’s Register of Good Safeguarding Practices since 2009.

Although Alasitas is the biggest celebration linked to the cult of Ekeko, it is not the only one. A similar festival, known by the name Calvario, is held throughout other regions in October. In the Peruvian city of Puno, there is an annual festival dedicated to Ekeko that takes place on May 3.

Remind me with Google Calendar

Category

Folk Festivals

Country

Bolivia

Tags

Alasitas festival, Alasitas fair, festivals in Bolivia, festivals in La Paz, traditional festivals, Ekeko