Thursday, March 09, 2006

Carnaval de Oruro: Tradition with a capital T

The weekend of February 24th was a busy one - my mother flew into La Paz at midnight on Friday, and at 4.30am we were sitting in a minibus on our way to Oruro, the Carnival capital of Bolivia.

The Carnaval de Oruro is one of the biggest carnival events in the world (apparently it’s in the Guinness Book of Records for the number of dancers that participate and how long they dance for…). Oruro is a small town on the Altiplano (that means it’s flat and windy) which is relatively dead for 360 days of the year. A stunning majority of its income is generated by the carnival, which brings in swarms of tourists, gives work to the tailors and the musicians, and explodes the economy for just a few days a year. Known to be one of the most stunning carnival destinations, it deserves the reputation hands down – the costumes were absolutely breathtaking, each team of dancers having carefully chosen their colours and design, and each costume being unique, with small differences in the execution of the design applauding the hand-made aspect of the costume. A big element of the emotions generated by the show is that each group of dancers has their own band, marching behind them in uniform and sharing the effort of making it from one end of town to the other, all the way to the Socavon church where each participant can enter on his or her knees to make a promise to the Virgin. The enthusiasm is so palpable that as a member of the audience, you get caught up in the music and get an overwhelming urge to jump over the barrier and participate in the show!

How are people convinced to dance in these insanely hot bear-suits for 4-6h? It's a requirement the first year you participate in the dance called Diablada (Or was it Morenada? My neuron is failing me right now, but it's one or the other...)

Don't think I know the name of this dance, but this is the most spectacular photo I took. Looks like fire! Me like.

Caporales. One of the more emotional dances, which requires insane amounts of energy and is done best by the group called San Simon...

Morenada. The thing he is holding in his right hand is an armadillo which they wind up and then rattle... It's hard to explain, you had to be there.


At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Vivian said...

The picture of the one that looks like fire is called Tobas. My sister is actually trying to teach me how to dance this!


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