Cruceño Traditions Day: Santa Cruz Celebrates the Customs of Eastern Bolivia

The eastern department of Santa Cruz, Bolivia celebrates the traditions of this tropical region on the last Sunday of August with a festival featuring traditional games and typical "cruceño" food, dances and music. Most interesting, however, is why "cambas" began to celebrate this day. ESPAÑOL

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Santa Cruz has been celebrating Día de la Tradición Cruceña (Santa Cruz Traditions Day) since 1980 when Bolivia was in the midst of a brutal military dictatorship with very notorious ties to drug trafficking. There were many cocaine factories in Bolivia's eastern tropical jungles at the time and drug traffickers would make their presence known at local festivals. Therefore, the Federation of Cruceño Fraternities, the entity that heads all the social groupings in the department, decided to make a public showing of its rejection of this state of things by establishing a healthy festival to recover ancient "camba" traditions, and remind people of their origins.

Thus the customs of Santa Cruz were rescued from oblivion and saved from being replaced by other foreign customs. Simultaneously, with a new appreciation for their roots, people began to protest against this rampant drug trafficking. This is how Santa Cruz Traditions Day began and now it is celebrated both in the capital city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra and in rural areas, even though each town in the rest of the department also has a specific date on which it celebrates its local traditions.

This year, the festival will be celebrated on the 29th of August under the slogan "200 years of struggle for our culture and freedom" as Santa Cruz also celebrates the Bicentennial of its First Cry for Independence this year. (A different slogan is used each year, depending on what the most relevant events are at the time).

Festivities will begin with a gathering at the central Plaza 24 de Septiembre in the morning where there will be a short program and from there everyone forms a caravan and heads to the festival grounds to enjoy typical foods such as majao and locro, and to participate in the traditional music, dancing, and games of yesteryear that are revived for everyone's entertainment. Most people dress in the typical attire of the region's colonial times and indigenous communities, or at the very least wear green and white (the colors of the flag of Santa Cruz).

Festivities typically take place at a property owned by the Federation; however, as of last year they have also been celebrated at the new Parque Autonómico, now the largest city park, located on the 4th ring, near Avenida Roca y Coronado. Festivities go on throughout the day and continue into the evening when a Reina de la Tradición (Traditions Queen) is elected from among candidates each fraternity nominates (there are about 150 fraternities).

Also customary is the election of a Señorita Tipoy (Miss Tipoy - the tipoy is the traditional dress camba women used to wear) from among a group of ladies who attends wearing this typical long, straight, sleeveless tunic with a flared collar and hem. The lady wearing the most creative tipoy wins (see our page on traditional Bolivian clothing).

Día de la Tradición Cruceña is also celebrated in other countries among migrants from Santa Cruz, especially in places where they are quite numerous, such as in Spain (Barcelona and Madrid) where they follow roughly the same program as in their home country or in the United States (Virginia) where they have been celebrating just recently as well.

Interested in learning more about Santa Cruz Traditions Day? Visit the central plaza or the Parque Autonómico and try some camba food or games or just enjoy the display of color, music, dancing and fun.

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