ESPAÑOL The Oruro Carnival Festivities (Carnaval de Oruro Bolivia) are among the top tourist attractions in Bolivia and the country's largest cultural event. The Oruro Carnival is one of the biggest cultural spectacles in South America, and unique in that it is a religious festivity. The Carnival in Oruro gathers up to 20,000 dancers and 10,000 musicians in one place. Preparations begin months in advance with "pre-carnavaleras".
Typical dances include the morenada, tinku, llamerada, negritos, tobas, kullawada, and of course, the diablada (devil dance). Bolivia’s Oruro Carnival devil dancers are known throughout the world. The parade route will extend from the Plaza del Folklore all the way down Bolivar street to 6 de Agosto where it takes a turn and runs another 20 or so blocks, ending at Aroma near the Terminal de Buses (the bus station) and Oruro’s Casa de la Cultura (house of culture). Over several days Carnaval de Oruro dancers will make this exhausting journey, dancing non-stop for up to 8 hours a day over a period of several days in reverence to the Virgen del Socavón (also known as the Virgen de Candelaria, or Virgin of the Mines) whom miners endearingly call the "Mamita del Socavón".
Oruro City celebrated the bicentennial of it’s liberation from Spanish rule in 2011. In celebration of this, the organizing committee announced the opening of a new Museo del Carnaval de Oruro (Oruro Carnival Museum) beginning initially with the opening of 2 exhibition halls which specifically feature costumers and masks used in the Diablada called the Museo de la Diablada (Devil Dance Museum). This museum is housed in the Ethnographic and Folklore Museum which is run by the city government. UNESCO, which has named the Carnival of Oruro as Intangible Oral and Cultural Heritage of Humanity, helped fund this project.
Costumes typically take months to manufacture and are hand made. The cost of each one can run into the thousands of dollars and they can weigh as much as the dancers themselves. Behind each costume and mask there is a story. The “diablada” (devil dance) and the “morenada” are the two most important dances of the Carnival of Oruro. The diablada is a mix of pagan and Catholic beliefs. The diablada was initially a dance of adoration to the sacred mountains of the Uru peoples and later became known as a dance symbolizing the battle between the Angel and the Devil when the Spanish arrived. The origins of the “morenada” are much debated, to the point of causing heated disputes between Bolivians and Peruvians, both of which claim to own this dance. Some say it actually represents the cruelty of the black slaves toward other indigenous slaves who worked the mines.
The “negritos” represent the suffering of the African slaves brought to the Americas during the colonial period. The “tinku” is a ritual tribute to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) in gratitude for the harvest and for society itself (the word “tinku” means “a union of persons and things”). The “tobas” is a warrior dance representing a time when the Incas conquered the natives of Eastern Bolivia, and there are many other dances and types of music.
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The Oruro Carnival Festivities may possibly be the biggest, most colorful and symbolic display of Bolivian music, dance and culture you’ll have the fortune to see in a very long time. The Carnival in Oruro now features many dancers, costumes and musicians from Eastern and Southern Bolivia as well, so it is no longer only a celebration of Andean or Western Bolivian traditions.
If you plan to travel Oruro Bolivia during this time, and wish to visit the Oruro Carnival, you must begin making plans immediately. There are few very good hotels in Oruro and they fill up quickly. Oruro hostels take reservations weeks and even months in advance, so reserving a hotel is the first step you should take if you plan to attend the Oruro Carnival.
Although the Oruro Carnival is promoted more than any other, Carnaval actually takes place all over Bolivia in many cities and towns simultaneously. In Santa Cruz, for example Carnaval is celebrated in a completely different manner, similar to Carnaval in Brazil but on a much smaller scale. Click here to see how Carnaval celebrations differ between Western and Eastern Bolivia.
Use the links at the top of the page and below to for all the information you’ll need on the Carnaval de Oruro, where to stay, places to see, and things to do in Oruro. Use our travel planner to find flights to Bolivia, information on Bolivia visa requirements and all other information necessary to plan your trip.
Oruro Carnival Festivities include the Festival de Bandas (Carnaval musical band festival) near the Santuario del Socavón, a serenade to the Virgin of the Socavón at the central plaza (Plaza 10 de Febrero), and folkloric groups and bands. The main day of the Carnaval de Oruro begins each year at 7:00 a.m. and the parade route goes all the way to the entrance of the Sanctuary of the Virgen del Socavón.
There is usually also a traditional daylight ceremony at the Santuario del Socavón beginning at 4:00 a.m. with the participation of Carnaval de Oruro bands. At 7:00 am the main “corso” of the Carnaval de Oruro dances along the parade route.
Dia del Diablo y del Moreno (Day of the Devil and the Dark-skinned Man) with Catholic mass at the Sanctuary of the Virgen del Socavón is when dancers bid farewell to the Oruro Carnival.