The many faces of fiesta

Fiesta is a serious business in Bolivia and in the six months we’ve been living here we’ve been lucky enough to take part in several. Some, like the Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos in the Bolivian Amazon, we went out of our way to get to; others, like Sucre’s Fiesta de Virgen de Guadalupe, were right on our doorstep; yet others we just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Fiesta is a glorious expression of deeply held traditional and modern beliefs, as well as being an occasion for an outpouring of joyous fun. People take it seriously but at the same time it is about making sure the party goes with a swing – bands play, dancers dance and both participants and onlookers drink heartily.

Every country in Latin America has its own traditions and costumes – think of the outrageous carnival floats in Brazil – and one of the striking features of Bolivian fiestas is the variety of elaborate masks coving everything from pre-Hispanic mythical creatures to Spanish Conquistadores thenmselves. There’s even a museum in Sucre which dedicates a whole floor to masks of the region, a visit to which made me want to share some of the faces of fiesta that we’ve seen.

This first selection comes from the Fiesta de Virgen de Guadalupe in Sucre.

Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia
Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia
Bird Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia
Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia
Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia
Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia
Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia
Mask, Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

Potosi’s Ch’utillos Festival, or the Festival of San Bartolomé to give its correct name, is a three day extravaganza held in the highest city in the world. It is home to some unique  costumes and masks, and also to some of the hardest drinking you’ll ever see at a Bolivian fiesta.

Masks, Ch’utillos Festival, Potosi, Bolivia
Masks, Ch’utillos Festival, Potosi, Bolivia
Masks, Ch’utillos Festival, Potosi, Bolivia
Masks, Ch’utillos Festival, Potosi, Bolivia
Masks, Ch’utillos Festival, Potosi, Bolivia
Masks, Ch’utillos Festival, Potosi, Bolivia

The Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos in the Bolivian Amazon is one of the highlights of Bolivian festivals, imbued with typically Amazonian themes and taking place in a small village with hardly any tourists in sight. One of the outstanding features are the wooden mask and leather hat wearing Achus who represent the Spanish and cause mayhem wherever they go.

Masks, Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia
Fish Masks, Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia
Sheep Masks, Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia
Jaguar Mask, Fiesta de San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

Finally, walking through La Paz one day we just bumped into a small fiesta in a barrio near the San Pedro prison.

Masks, La Paz, Bolivia
Masks, La Paz, Bolivia

Anyway, we’re off on an overland trip to Chile tonight so hopefully lots to report in coming days…

1 thought on “The many faces of fiesta

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