The world’s biggest hen party, Tarija’s Comadres festival

“There are no wives or girlfriends today, only singles.” Was how one Chapacos (the name given to residents of Tarija) explained the comadres fiesta to me.

“The women start gathering in the square in the morning, there is much drinking. In the afternoon the men come and hang around the square waiting for the women.” Was another attempt to explain an event that was taking on an increasingly sinister vision in my mind.

Comadres is traditionally held the Thursday before carneval and seems to mingle elements of a school disco, a giant hen night and a female drinking Armageddon. During the day the action is centred on Tarija’s beautiful Plaza Louis de Fuentes y Vargas, a plaza that wouldn’t be out of place in a provincial Spanish town. For comadres however, it more resembles Liverpool city centre on a Friday night.

Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia

The plaza slowly filled with women, and some men, throughout the day and there was indeed an indecent amount of drinking and drunkenness, but, unlike Liverpool on  Friday night, not a hint of trouble. One side of the plaza featured a huge disco that seemed to have the volume set at a level intended to communicate with outer space. On the opposite side of the plaza things were more sedate, with an older crowd, a traditional band and much dancing.

Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia

There is a real purpose to comadres, I’m not sure what it is, but it involves friends giving large baskets of fruit, vegetables and other goodies to each other. Although not before they have danced the night away with the basket. The baskets often feature a largish cucumber as a not-so-subtle sexual reference…it really is a hen night.

Everyone seems to be carrying one of the baskets, decorated with flags and balloons. The one below even came with a bottle of whisky.

Basket of traditional items, comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Basket of traditional items, comadres, Tarija, Bolivia

As the curtain closed on the festivities in the plaza, and the sun started to set, the focus of attention turned to the Avenida de las Americas. All the comadres who could still stand joined a parade and danced up and down the street in a more-or-less organised way. Festivities go on long into the night and a lot of the dancers carried grapes – the symbol of this wine producing region.

The women also wear a rose over one ear. A rose over the right ear indicates that she is married, over the left ear that she is single. Although it may be the other way around, the person who explained this to me had drunk her own body weight in booze. As I said, a hen night.

Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancers, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancers, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancer, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancers, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Dancers, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Nearing the finish line, comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Nearing the finish line, comadres, Tarija, Bolivia

Men do get to participate in the comadres parade, but their role is limited to that of musicians or to carrying cans of beer for the ladies.

Musician, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia
Musician, Comadres, Tarija, Bolivia

10 thoughts on “The world’s biggest hen party, Tarija’s Comadres festival

  1. are all bolivian festivals alcohol fuelled, or just the ones you choose to go to?

    1. They largely come with alcohol, no need to hunt out the boozier ones. There is a non-alcohol event tomorrow but sadly we’re off back to Sucre so can’t participate.

  2. I just love the wigs, such splendid colors.

    1. ‘Colourful’ is definitely the word I’d use for carenval, ‘riot’ might be the other!

    1. Thank you for the reblog, much appreciated.

  3. That looks fantastic. I look forward to hearing the Sharon’s take on events. Or did you leave her there? x

    1. It was fun and we both survived the night, miraculously without getting drenched by mischievous water throwing drunks. The little scamps.

  4. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

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