Celebrating Halloween in Bolivia... Sort of...


Most of Bolivia hasn't figured out exactly what Halloween is yet. There appears to be a lot of confusion about why we celebrate Halloween, what it means, where it originated, or what we actually do to celebrate. Still, over the past ten years or so, Halloween has been catching on here and some Bolivians are doing their best to emulate it, while others add their own Bolivian twist by including such things as haunted houses complete with ghoulish Andean medicine men and cholita zombies and such.

Most Bolivians also incorrectly believe that Halloween is an American holiday, and to be honest, a lot of Americans probably never bothered to ask where Halloween actually originated either (by the way, that would be Europe). Our mouths are too full of candy and pumpkin pie to ask why. To most Americans, and in other parts of the world, Halloween is just one big fun, comical joke-plus-costume party, a.k.a. another excuse to party (although it actually began as a harvest festival) but some people here in Bolivia truly believe that we actually practice witchcraft and satanic rituals, or that it's all about horror and death, or that we truly believe in zombies and ghosts, that we actually attempt to speak to the dead, that we commit atrocious crimes on Halloween night, or that Halloween is only about horror and scaring little children. If that's the case, I'm going to have to re-think my costume choice this year.

I've also seen people campaigning, online and offline, to eliminate Halloween in Bolivia. Some claim it's un-Christian and they don't want their children to be exposed to our "pagan" and "satanic" practices. However, the next day, November 1st, is Day of the Dead, a time when many of those same Bolivians spend the entire day at the cemeteries where they play music to their dead family members at their gravestones while they share a meal (usually the favorite food of the dead person) for whom they also set a place at the graveside "table"... and for whom they leave a plate of food when they leave...

I guess it's a good thing Bolivian law requires us all to respect and be tolerant of each others beliefs, religions, traditions, "uses and customs". I'd hate to see my "satanic" Tinkerbell costume go to waste...


Happy Halloween!

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