An alternative title to this post could be: “48 hours of cerveza, Cuba Libre and fireworks in the company of three Australians, two Dutch people and a couple of thousand Bolivians resulting in a severe hangover, third degree burns and a close call with a group of angry bulls”. But that would be jumping ahead, first…
…after the 4am start to the fiesta we got a couple of hours sleep and rejoined the party around 10am, soon finding ourselves entrenched outside a bar with a large table of locals who had brought their own bottles of whisky. Someone at the next table hired a band for the day so we had on-tap music played at a deafening level right next to us. A round of beers for the band got you any request you wanted and made sure the band was pretty drunk by the end of the afternoon.
As the fiesta unfolded with ever larger, more colourful and elaborate parades, music and dancing, the cerveza flowed, and things got more and more exciting and crazy until finally peaking with a huge fireworks display and much drunken behaviour from the gathered throng.
As at 4am, things started at the Mission around 11am when the Macheteros returned to play their pipes, sing and dance before being turned away again from entering the Mission.
Next a large group of masked Achus appeared pulling in their wake the great comic turn of the fiesta: an Achus riding a fake horse that was out of control and brought chaos and destruction in its wake. The Achus look like representations of the Spanish and are there to cause trouble, something they do very well. They did a tour of the main plaza, setting off fireworks and ‘attacking’ any unwary person with their ‘horse’.
The theatre behind the Achus’ ‘horse’ is that it is bad-tempered and gets out of control, crashing into spectators and anyone else foolish enough to get in the way. In reality, the rider is always on the lookout for an opportunity to create trouble and veers wildly into the crowd to bash into people – from experience I know that the ‘horse’ can give you a real whack on the shins. I saw several unwary people upended to the great delight of the crowd, particularly the children who are constantly daring the horse to charge them.
After the Achus have created enough mayhem, things calm down a little and a huge parade starts from the main plaza and tours around the village for a couple of hours before making a final triumphant return to the plaza and the Mission. The parade is wonderful, with many more performers than previously and mixes more solemn religious elements with a party atmosphere.
There are many animals represented in the fiesta, I’d guess that these go back to pre-Hispanic beliefs since animals and the natural landscape were central elements of those beliefs. These performers represent the Jaguar, while there are still some original Jaguar hides on display, conservation efforts mean that these days most costumes aren’t real.
Fish are also popular, and they represent an old legend about the formation of Laguna Isirere, a short walk from the village. Myth insists that the lake was formed when a local boy, Isidoro, was paddling in a small pool of water only to be swallowed up by a water spirit as a human sacrifice needed to create a bigger lake…which is why only children are dressed as fish.
Despite not being allowed into the Mission, the Macheteros have the task of carrying the statue of San Ignacio around the streets, frequently stopping and bowing to the statue and continuing to play music, sing and dance.
After much parading under a very hot sun, everyone makes their way back into the plaza before finally finishing in front of the mission and getting a well deserved cerveza. Here’s a selection of pictures from the parades…
After the parades finished there was a church service and everyone dispersed, presumably for a well deserved lie down. That wasn’t to be the end of the day’s festivities though; once the sun set a whole new party started, with more fireworks and more drinking…but that’s for next time.