February 07, 2005

The Bolivian Carnival

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It is already a custom I tell you a little bit about Bolivian culture. This time I want to tell you about the Bolivian carnival.

carnival is basically a week of partying, drinking, dressing up, and getting wet.

Look at this link from La Razon to see some beautiful pictures of this year's carnival.

My fondest memories of my life in Bolivia are about those times when I spent carnival there. I don't know and I have not been able to find any information about the origins of that tradition, but it really doesn't matter, when you live in Bolivia. :-) The thing is, it is there and it is one's duty to take full advantage of it.

One thing is for sure, carnival in Bolivia has a regional character. It is different in each region of the country. The most important carnival is the one in Oruro. It has even been proclaimed "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by the UNESCO in 2001.

After the Oruro carnival, come all of the others. The carnival in Santa Cruz is full of luxury and beauty. The carnival in La Paz is very folkloric. The one in Sucre is very native. Cochabamba also has a folkloric one, and so on....

In any case, carnival is the best week to have fun, and then some more fun. As a kid, I used to play a lot with water balloons. I used to prepare myself by buying lots of water balloon bags. The best were called Bombucha. Once I had my supply of water balloons, me and my friends used to start playing with water long before carnival arrived. About two weeks before the official start of carnival season, my friends and I used to fill lots of balloons with water and stand around at the door of one of our houses, and wait for our victims. The victims were usually girls our own age or older girls, who would pass along our street. Of course, we were supposed to wait for the ones who were playing, but one always makes mistakes, right? ;-)

As I got older, my worries were not so much the balloons, but the parties. In La Paz, the tradition is one party for every day of carnival. Since carnival lasts for a week, we usually had, between seven (when lucky) to four parties. Hey, the parties were hard to orgaize. The parties were usually organized by a member of the circle of friends. Each party had a theme. I remember very well the pirates party, the pepino (see the photo) party, and the black and white party. The most fun is the fact that one gets to spend a lot of time with his or her circle of friends and meets a lot of new people.

For another fun story about carnival, check out Barrio Flores. Great article Eduardo.

Also see these other links to experience the carnival closer.

La Prensa
El Deber