January 27, 2005

1000 Dollars for 1 Boliviano

MABB is a registered TM.

1000 Dollars for 1 Boliviano, that is the exchange rate during this week in Bolivia's Alasitas fair.

No, don't panic, everything is alright. The dollar has not devalued. It doesn't have anything to do with the US' humongous trade deficit, neither with its equally abysmal hole in the budget. It doesn't really have anything to do with foreign investors dumping US debt in exchange for Bolivian debt. Bolivia doesn't even have debt in the stock markets. The fact of the matter is, it doesn't have anything to do with the world markets at all. It is in a different market that this rate is prevalent.

The Alasitas fair, where the eye-popping exchange rate between the miniature paper dollars and real Bolivianos is being quoted, has opened on January 24, at twelve o'clock pm. Alasitas is a traditional arts and crafts fair where everything for sale is in miniature. You can find anything your heart desires and your imagination allows, from wash machines, buses, houses, toilets, to meat, eggs, and even miniature paper dollars. Of course, these dollars are not real and are not intended to defraud the FED. Don't worry, they are conspicuously fake.

Alasitas, which in Aymara means comprame (buy from me) has been celebrated since colonial times by the natives. Today, it has gradually grown to be the major miniature and real size arts and crafts fair in La Paz and in Bolivia. It is not known when Alasitas actually started being celebrated. We do know, that it is a celebration in honor of the Ekeko. This figure is the central object of the fair and represents "abundance" and "good fortune". According to local legend, if you want, for example, a car, you have to buy yourself a miniature car in Alasitas and have it blessed by the Aymara priests. If you do that, you will be able to buy the car you want, in the course of the year. That is why the Ekeko, a short, chubby and rosy-cheeked man, carries every desirable object possible on his back as well as his chest (click on the photo).

Come January 24, Bolivians and now also tourists from all over the world, come together to experience this unique fair in the hear of La Paz.

Miguel Centellas, who authors Ciao!, has mentioned to me he also wrote an interesting piece about his experience in Alasitas 2003. Here is the link. He has great pictures. Thanks for sharing Miguel.

Note:The photos are borrowed from Bolivia.com