Issue - January 2007

January 2007

Once again, a New Year is starting with plenty of hopes and ideas for 2007 making it even better than the last one.

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January 2007

Las Alasitas

by Sarah Turley

La Feria de Las Alasitas is one of La Paz´s most famous festivals, beginning each year on the 24th of January and lasting for two weeks. While now home to a huge variety of arts and crafts products, fairground rides and other games, it is traditionally held in honour of the little Andean idol of abundance Ekeko (meaning dwarf in Aymara) who supposedly possesses magical powers and is capable of bringing good luck and wealth. It is not known exactly how or when Ekeko´s Feria first emerged, but there are sculptures and ceramics that suggest that a god of abundance has existed in the minds of native Bolivians since Tiwanaku, and it is thought that this was further cemented during the indigenous uprising and siege of La Paz in 1781. Somehow over the years, Ekeko seems to have attached himself to the annual Catholic celebration of the Procesión de la Virgen, which local authorities installed during the 18th century and takes place on the 24th January, so that he has since taken over the craft market which tra tionally took place on the same day. In this way today's Feria de Las Alasitas is something of a hybrid, having roots both in Andean and in Catholic beliefs.

Traditionally, native Bolivians would attend the Feria de Las Alasitas in order to please Ekeko, so that he might grant them a year of good fortune. Often they would buy little figures of the mestizo idol, in which he would typically be carrying a sack of desirable supplies, such as houses, cattle, food and money. It was believed that those who purchased a littleEkeko would please the idol, prompting him to bestow the real supplies upon them. Nowadays, the Feria has evolved into an entire market of the products that would be found in his sack, reproduced in miniature; from tiny packets of food to incredibly small but intricate items of clothes and furniture. The idea however, remains the same: buying tiny representations of the things that ones wants encourages Ekeko to grant the real item over the year to come.

Though I am not lucky enough to be in Bolivia in January to experience the real Feria de Las Alasitas first hand, I was able to visit Cochabamba´s own mini version which takes place each October. Despite being on a far smaller scale than the original one in La Paz, it was still a great evening out, having a real Bolivian fiesta atmosphere. There is lots to do and see for people of all ages, and it is a great place to buy souvenirs and presents, miniature or otherwise. Some of the artesania´s tiny products (eg. the hand-painted houses and doll´s house-sized furniture) are truly beautiful and painstakingly crafted, whether out of tin, wood, plaster or plastic. Others (eg. the mini packets of Oreos and boxes of cereal) and are slightly less impressive, but still somehow pleasing (though why one would bother asking Ekeko for these I don´t know). Nevertheless they are all worth a look.

So, to any of you who are able to get to La Paz in January, I strongly urge you to head to the Feria de Las Alasitas. If only to ensure Ekeko never lets you run out of cornflakes.

My life in Taricaya
Despite having been in Cochabamba for over two weeks now I still find myself completely unaccustomed to the wonderfully peaceful nights sleep (without rude interruption by rat, opossum or cockroach), delicious food and presence of street lights and cars as opposed to fire flies and peccaries!?
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