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Bolivia: The Festival of Alasitas

Photo by Cltn and used under a Creative Commons license.

Ekeko is a diminutive fellow with a jolly disposition. His happiness may have something to do with the material wealth overflowing in his arms. Miniature versions of dollar bills, euros, fancy cars, houses, and college diplomas can all be seen in the presence of Ekeko. In Bolivia, Ekeko is a character associated with abundance and prosperity, and he is the central figure in the Festival of Alasitas. This event is based in the city of La Paz, but can also be seen in other cities of Bolivia. Cristina Quisbert of Bolivia Indigena [es] describes the appearance of Ekeko and states that his appearance has been changing to reflect a more mestizo features.

Some bloggers in El Alto write about this festival. Juan Apaza writes about some of the scenes from Alasitas in El Alto Hoy [es]

las alasitas es considerada una fiesta( es el encuentro de todas las esferas y status sociales ) vivida en miniatuara para conocer el imaginario de la cosmovision aymara…
es facinante ver como los deseos ,inquietudes y planes de la gente adquieren forma :

lujosos departamentos.
autos ultimo modelo.
titulos universitarios…
todos los alimentos….de la cocina…
fajos de billetes…dolares…y euros….pa que nunca falte…

van pasando por el saumerio de las yatiris a las 12 00 del dia ,pa que se cumpla y se vuelva realidad…(ahi va enfrascada la fe …)
este es un acontecimiemto unico.

ALASITA……….es un vocablo aymara que significa comprame…!

Las Alasitas is considered a festival (where one can find people from all social statuses) experienced in miniature and to get to know the Aymara cosmovision. It's fascinating to see the wishes, hopes, and plans of the people that buy:Luxury apartments
The latest cars
College degrees
Food items for the home
Endless amounts of currency…dollars and euros

People pass by the location of the Yatiris (traditional medicine-men) at 12 noon so that their wishes come true .. (there is where faith comes in)…this is a unique event.

ALASITA is from the Aymara word meaning “Buy From Me”.

Felipe Puacara of Tecnología Comunicacional [es] adds a little more details to the rituals [es]:

A la hora mencionada mucha gente entre mayores, jóvenes y niños se encontraban ansiosos de adquirir billetes, casas, vehículos, cosas para el hogar, títulos universitarios, y otros, para que puedan ser una realidad durante el año 2008, el deseo personal fue adquirir algunos billetes para que no falte en el bolsillo, lo anecdótico aparte de realizar las compras, fue las ansias de buscar personas, que en el entorno aymara se los denomina “YATIRIS”, que significaría algo así como VIDENTES, para que puedan realizar la CHALLA de las miniaturas adquiridas, complementando de este modo el deseo de realidad. La challa, se constituye en un ritual andino que consiste en la acción de rociar con una bebida (alcohol o vino) y realizar el sahumerio con incencio.

At the indicated time, old, young and children become excited to acquire bills, houses, vehicles, household items, college diplomas, and other things that they want in 2008. The desire to buy some bills is so that one's pockets aren't empty during the year. In addition to shopping, there was some excitement to find those that in Aymara are called “YATIRIS,” which can be said to mean “PSYCHIC,” so that they can CHALLAR (bless) the purchased miniatures, which helps make these wishes into reality. The challa is an Andean ritual that sprinkle these items with a drink (alcohol or wine) and cover them with incense.

In addition to the minatures, Wara Yampara of El Alto Productivo [es] writes about banks and their role in wishmaking in Alasitas.

Las alcancías son muy necesarias para aquellas personas que quieren ahorrar, hay alcancías pequeñas hasta gigantes de más de 50 cm. de alto, estas alcancías al igual que los objetos de estuco, son elaboradas un año antes de las alasitas, es decir que para las alasitas del próximo año, ya en Marzo empiezan a elaborarlas. La costumbre de las alcancías es comprarse una para poner ahí todo nuestros ahorros, la mayoría compra alcancías para los niños, aprendiendo en el año el valor del ahorro.

Para el negocio se compran de alcancías en forma de toro negro esto para la buena fortuna en el negocio, pero también existen puestitos miniatura, es decir tiendas, carnicerías, peluquerías, zapaterías, abarroteras, fruteras, puntos de llamada, etc.

Para el amor la costumbre es regalar a un amigo una gallina, para que aquel amigo tenga su pareja, o una gallina con sus pollitos para que esa pareja de amigos tenga hijos; y si es una amiga entonces debemos regalarle un gallito para su buena fortuna en el amor.

Banks are very important for those that want to save. There are small banks and large banks up to 50 cm in height. These banks are also made of stucco and are made one year before alasitas in March for use next year. The tradition of the banks involves buying one to place all of our savings. Most buy banks for children in order to teach them the value of saving.

For businesses, banks in the form of black bulls are bought so that there is good luck in business, but there are also minature booths, stores, butchers, barbershops, shoestores, fruit shops, call centers, etc.

For love, the tradition is to give a chicken to a friend who wants a partner or a chicken with chicks for the couple that wants children. If it is a female friend, then a rooster is given to her so that she has good luck with love.

Some of these bloggers enjoy that these traditions are remaining strong in spite of external influences. Loyola Larico writes about a story that was handed down by her grandfather [es].

Una me contó mi abuelo que mas o menos cuenta así: En vísperas del 24 de enero una familia de padres con un hijo y su esposa se encontraba en apuros uno porque eran fabricantes de los objetos en miniatura para las alasitas, sucede que el hijo de la familia había sufrido un accidente y la nuera daba a luz justo en esos días, por tal razón no podían terminar de hacer las miniaturas, una noche llego a su puerta un señor mayor regordito de nombre Pancho que pedía pasar la noche en la casa de la familia, la familia siempre generosa con la gente le dejaron quedarse, entre platica y platica le contaron a que se dedicaban y el problema que tenían, y el señor en eso se ofreció ayudarlos la nuera dio a luz esa noche, mientras toda la familia esta en esos acontecimientos, Pancho había terminado de surtir los pedidos para las alasitas, cuando llego la familia a la casa sorprendidos del hecho afirmaron sus creencias en cuanto a las alasitas. Realmente el Ekeko existía y los había visitado.

My grandfather told me one of these stories, and it goes like this: On the eve of January 24, a couple along with their son and his wife were hurried. For one, they were manufacturers of miniature objects to see at Alasitas. In addition, the son had suffered an accident and his wife was due to give birth precisely on those days. For those reason, they could not finish the order of the miniatures. One night an older, chubby man named Pancho knocked on their door. He asked if he could stay the night at the family’s home. The family had always been very generous with others and let the man stay the night. During conversation, the they talked about their work and the problem that they were facing. The guest offered to help. While the daughter-in-law gave birth, Pancho had finished all of the orders for Alasitas. When the family arrived home, they were surprised of what had happened and reaffirmed their belief in Alasitas. Ekeko really existed and was the visitor.

Finally, she shares additional words of wisdom from her grandfather about traditions in El Alto [es]:

Nuestras tradiciones nos dan mucho fuerza para seguir adelante y afianzar nuestro sentido de vivir. Viéndolo desde el punto de vista cultural no debemos olvidar nuestras tradiciones y costumbres. Mi abuelo siempre decía si sabes de donde bienes sabrás a donde ir.

Our traditions give us a lot of strength to move ahead and highlight our way of life. Seeing things from the cultural point of view, we must now forget about our traditions and customs. My grandfather always said, if you know where you come from, you'll know where to go.

  • http://medeamaterial.blogspot.com Juliana Rincón Parra

    Me encantó leer esta serie de las alasitas. Quedé con muchas ganas de regalar gallinas y gallitos, tener un torito para la alcancía ( o una alcancía de avión) y un ekeko para ponerlo a fumar de vez en cuando :)

  • http://milt.blogspot.com/ TonNet

    That’s why GVO is so important, we have the chance to port different cultures in one common language and from there make it known and appreciated.

    Thanks Eduardo.

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