El Tio de La Mina (i think...)

  (Taken by Hank, during la fiesta of Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia)


I thought that it was just going to be another parade.

 

We stood right outside our hostel which was right on the route of the parade. It wasn't like we had anywhere else to go. Everyone was there and the street corners were blocked off by the police. We were stuck with our front door as our exit.

The young, the old, the lady that sold us fruits, the owner of our hotel and the rest of the world as we knew it were there. It looked like a colony of ants on the move with their constant walking about on the streets. The atmosphere was indescribable; I wish I had a better word for it. Everyone was high from either the music or the beer that was being passing around. The drunkenness was seeping through the air into every pore. The bellhop at our hostel kept asking Hank to drink with him. “un poquito, proba! Proba!” (a little bit, try, try!) he kept saying. He would drink a little first and then, offer the can to Hank. He would then go off to his friends and less than two minutes later, he would come back with a fresh can of beer. It was nice to finally get welcomed by a local like that.

 

Dancing in front of the church

 (Taken by Hank, during la fiesta of Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia)

The parade started at one in the afternoon from their village and then, they dance, drink and be marry all the way up the church. The whole route took more than ten hours but still, when they arrived at our corner which was two blocks away from the church, the smiles were still on their face. The bliss of their journey was apparent. The closer they got to their destination, the more hyper they were and the louder the crowd cheered. By the time they got to the entrance of the church and got a glance of “Virgen De Guadalupe”, all pressure went lose and some even begin to cry. When they had finally made it all the way to the end, to very “goddess” that will take them a step closer to their hopes and dreams, they truly believe that she is the answer to life. How nice it is to have faith like that.

 

I was told that once they decide to participate in the parade, they have to do it three years consecutively. Before they start practicing, they have to pray at the church for two months to ask for permission to participate. The costumes can take up a whole year to be hand sewn and the dance routines take up to three months of practice. Before the actual parade, they do three to four trial runs to familiarize themselves with the route. After they have fulfilled their promise, they can then go on and ask for health, luck or a career. Love of course is at the top of the list of wishes being made.

 

The bands were not at their best because they were all drunk from the beers that had been offered to them along the way. All the same, with their blood shot eyes and soaked-and-dried shirts that told a story of a long hot day, the crowd sang along like there is no tomorrow. The dancers and the band members swayed to music that’s off key and the crowd was constantly cheering them on. Red cans, blue cans of beer, crates of beer, beer in plastic bags and beer at the hostel, everyone was drinking, and everyone was high on life. The truck that was parked on the corner had a pool of piss around it and slowly made its way onto the route. Packed boxes of fried chicken were for sale with a wave and a shout to the ladies tracing the parade up and down. Empty cans were collected as soon as they hit the ground. There were little boys and girls that crouched down and reach underneath the benches as if searching for the source of life, they happily got their hands dirty.

 

The noise, the crowded streets, the lack of empty beer cans, the smells, the heat, the clapping, the little drops of rain that got *sang away all made this night an unbelievable experience.


 
Oops!                                       here is the silly tourist!

The parade that we saw in Arequipa, Peru wasn’t even close to what this one was like. This was a true display of love and faith in their god. There was one group in particular that topped my chart of the best dance troupe. They were a group of around one hundred women and while they danced, they sang, “somos bolivianas…”. It not only showed how much they believe in what they were doing but also their country. The patriotism is apparent.

 

Although the streets smelled like a mixture of beer, sweat and urine, I would have to say that I’m impressed. I know that the drumming and the fireworks will last well into the morning along with the cheers of the crowd but I’m so honored to have witnessed this parade.  

 

In Peru, I felt pretence from people almost everywhere. They dressed themselves up with the traditional Andean clothes because they wanted to make 2 soles from the tourists per picture. I took a picture of a young school girl at the plaza in Cusco and assumed that it was alright because she did turn to the camera and smiled for me. Two seconds after I took the pictures, she asked me “senorita, propina?”(Miss, a tip?) I was pissed. Where did she get the audacity to ask for such a thing? Bolivians are the exact opposite. They are proud of where they came from and what they wear doesn’t make a difference to who they are. You want a picture of them? Just ask if it’s alright. They won’t ask you for anything else other than sending it to them via email if they had one, or simply showing them the picture on the camera would do. I see young women in their early twenties wearing traditional clothes to go to work. It’s all very natural and nothing is made up. I’m so proud of how proud they are about their own identities. There is no mistake in what you see because that is what you will get. Foreigners and locals alike pay the same price. Well, apart from some of the museums and tours, but at 25 bolivianos (125 NTD) for a four hour tour, I really can’t complain. (the locals pay 5 Bs.)

 

I was exhausted from all the noise after four hours of sitting on the side walk, I have no idea how they can last all day, WITH smiles on their faces. Astounding really.

 

We are leaving for Chile soon and I’m almost certain that I will miss the genuineness of their welcomes.

 

Go Bolivia!

Go for it, you silly tourist!

*around eight in the evening, it started to rain a little and the crowd started to sing this song that was meant to chase away the rain. And guess what? The magic song worked. I now am a believer of Bolivian voodoo.

 

Kris

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