Alasitas – the festival of Abundance

Alasitas is a month long festival beginning on the 24th of January in La Paz.  It’s mostly celebrated by the indigenous Aymara people to pay homage to Ekeko, the god of abundance.  The Aymara buy an assortment of miniature models which represent the things they desire most.  When these miniatures are blessed by a local Shaman it’s believed that they will receive a real life version within a year.  Miniatures are also given as gifts to friends and family under the same belief.

The event has it’s origins in Pre-Colombian times when it was known as Chhalisita.  The ancient Tiwinaku people were believed to have prayed for bountiful harvests by exchanging gifts.  During the siege of La Paz in 1781, the celebration was devoted to Our Lady of the Peace, the patron saint after which La Paz was named.  The tradition later evolved to include Ekeko and the miniatures.

alisitas ekeko

Ekeko’s favourite things are money, cigarettes and alcohol –  source nuestramiranda.org

On the morning of the 24th huge makeshift markets spring up across the city.  People travel from all over the country to buy miniatures that represent their greatest desires.  A smaller version of almost anything you can imagine is for sale.  Popular items include miniature houses, apartment buildings, university degrees, marriage certificates, laptops, cars and mobile phones.  People looking for love can buy miniature Roosters (which somehow represent new love) and those who want to travel can buy little passports, plane tickets and suitcases.  Money is the most popular item, which comes in tiny sized US dollars, Euros and Bolivianos.  There are also miniature newspapers which are filled with spoof stories that make fun of Bolivian politicians and celebrities.

alisitas money

Who doesn’t want more money? – source Flickr Rodrigo Sebastian Urzagasti Saldías

Surprisingly, even the Catholic church gets involved.  I suppose they can no longer suppress indigenous beliefs so they might as well support them in order to retain their loyal following.  At midday on the first day of the festival, churches open their doors to massive herds of frantic believers, all looking for a Catholic priest to bless their miniatures.  There are too many people to attend to individually so the priests just splash holy water everywhere and hope for the best.

While the 24th is the main day of the festival, miniatures can still be bought up to a month later.  It’s common to see them on display in shops and private homes.

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