Alasitas - La Paz, Bolivia
by Mick Huerta
(La Paz, Bolivia)
Miniatures of things needed
On the first day (Jan. 24th) of this month-long festival, many attend a Morning Mass accompanied by their miniatures. The objects are varied and express the focus and need of the celebrants. They range from a work truck, to a house, the diploma a worried university student is toiling to achieve, a little store whose income would stabilize a family, a stove for ease of cooking or most anything worth praying for. Upon leaving the church there's a line of Yatiris with braziers of smoking coals, who willingly strengthen the requests uttered inside.
Participants move then to fairgrounds where yet more Yatiris offer their services along with food vendors, sellers of bric-a-brac and balloons, and hawkers of all sorts. Now deeply felt faith becomes cause for fiesta. Families stroll up the fairway with babies and grandmothers in tow; teenagers check out one another while playing foosball meantime youngsters laugh chewing on their cobs of corn. In the crowd I asked a happy young boy carrying a statue, what his "Ekeko" is for. He responded quickly, "For good luck and for a good future." His smile was big and his eyes were shiny and clear. And I can't help but think what comes will be just as bright.
At Alasitas, you'll find a bold fusion of the native with that of the Christian. This is synchretism (fusion of differing systems of belief) lived and demonstrated in open, full and modern terms. One faith is old, the other even more ancient. Both bolster a people as they face the unknown. There is not a gesture more human than this. My prayers in all the smoke and incantation? Well, mine are simple. I ask that these people receive what they need and that each and every one of us will be alright. I beseech "Ekeko" and all gods who might be listening. And I'll be back next year to do the same.
Copyright © Mick Huerta 2011. All Rights Reserved.
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