Alasitas is a 3-week long fair that, in La Paz, takes place beginning on the 24th of January and in Santa Cruz takes place in September. Everything is in miniature! This festival originally took place in September throughout the country when it's spring time in Bolivia and farmers prayed for a good crop so their harvest would be bountiful. Alasitas is an Aymara festival Bolivia celebrates in reverence of the indigenous "god of bounty" or "abundance" called the Ekkekko. Therefore, Alasitas has been called the Festival of Abundance. It takes place at the Parque Urbano in La Paz and the 5th Ring between Tres Pasos al Frente and Cumavi in Santa Cruz. As it grows each year, its location is sometimes moved.
It's an Andean tradition that has spread to other parts of Bolivia as immigrants move around; however, in the Andean regions of the country the date was switched to January to commemorate an indigenous uprising that took place in 1781, let by Tupac Katari.
The Aymara have a god called the Ekkekko (meaning midget or dwarf). He's the god of abundance. They purchase a statue of the Ekkekko which usually has a poncho made of "aguayo" fabric. The aguayo is the colorful handloomed lambswool or alpaca wool fabric that Aymara women use to carry produce or their children on their backs.
During Alasitas, which takes place just prior to Carnaval, everything you can possibly think of is sold in miniature. You can find miniature houses, cars, grocery store products, university diplomas, little tools and kitchen utensils, clothing, even passports and visas.
The Aymara purchase in miniature everything they hope the Ekkekko will grant them during the coming year. They then pin these things to his poncho and leave them there as a sort of altar in their homes throughout the year, in the hopes that he will help them acquire these things during that time.
When they first pin the miniature things to his poncho they put a cigarrette in his mouth and light it. They then pray to him as he smokes. Sometimes they drink alcohol and toss him a little drop or drop some onto the floor in front of the Ekkekko before drinking from the glass themselves. This, I'm told, is because you must always give to the Earth before taking for yourself.
Alasitas is a great place to visit as a tourist. It's incredibly interesting. But because it has also become very touristic, you can now purchase just about anything you want at Alasitas in the form of handcrafts and art pieces for tourists. In fact, it has become so popular that artisans come all the way from Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and other places to sell their handcrafts too.
You can also find things that are not in miniature like great ceramics and leather goods. Definitely visit this month-long fair if you're in La Paz in February or in Santa Cruz in September.
You can sample all kinds of great baked goods and dried fruits. I suggest trying the anticuchos. Anticuchos are like shish-kabobs. They're little pieces of meat and potatoes stuck on to a thin metal stick and roasted on an open grill. Prior to handing the anticucho to you, the griller will slather a spicy sauce over it. The sauce is absolutely delicious and is made from peanuts and hot peppers. (Oh! And did I mention the meat is beef heart? Yum.)
Alasitas has become one of the best and largest venues for people to sell their goods and handcrafts each year. They sell so well that they've completely broken with tradition and now sell all kinds of things just for tourists. In addition, what used to be a 10-day fair has been extended to 30 days and they now move to Santa Cruz every year in September and stay a whole month there too. It's rather amusing, really, since most of the people who sell at Alasitas claim to be staunchly anti-capitalist.