As the sun set on San Ignacio de Moxos on 30th July, the fiesta got into high gear and the party started. Having spent the afternoon carousing we were in good condition to take part in the night-time festivities – the whole evening is a bit of a blur, which I blame on the Cuba Libre, and despite the burn holes I now have in most of my clothes it was a night that will live long in the memory. Bolivians enjoy a good party, something I’ve experienced before during fiesta in Sucre, but San Ignacio was special even by Bolivian standards, with festivities winding down only around 3am.
As soon as it was dark the fireworks started, the Cuba Libre flowed and more and more people, whether part of the parades or spectators, poured into the plaza in front of the Mission. The fireworks went on for a good 40 minutes and it was clear that everyone was in celebratory mood. I’d have to rate the health and safety of the firework display as 1 out of 10, but when Cuba Libre has been taken that doesn’t seem too big an issue.
Once the fireworks ended it was time for more high jinks from the Achus, running through the packed crowds with fireworks attached to their hats – as they run phosphorous sparks that are still burning fly off the fireworks and, consequently, continue to burn when they land on you. Obviously, locals know this, while naive Gringos who may have had a few too many drinks take a while to catch on. This is why I have lots of holes in my clothes.
Regardless, it is an amazing communal experience, with a sort of joyful hysteria spreading through the crowd as more and more people run around with fireworks going off on their heads. It’s advisable to not to be in the vicinity when the fireworks come to an abrupt and explosive end, which can be quite scary.
At the start, the only people running through the crowd with fireworks are the masked Achus, technically the professionals in this situation, but as things develop, and more alcohol is consumed, anyone and everyone seems to have a go. Apparently, Bolivia has yet to make the link between alcohol and firework safety.
And then, suddenly, kaboom!
And finally, to complete this night of bizarrreness, a small photo montage:
I cannot stress enough that you should not be around when the fireworks finally come to their explosive end…
This being Bolivia, the end of the night was still far away, and mercifully I was incapable of focusing the camera beyond this point…time for a Cuba Libre, perhaps?