Alasitas – The Festival of Abundance

Alasitas is a month long festival beginning on the 24th of January in La Paz which is celebrated by indigenous Aymara to pay homage to Ekeko, the god of abundance. Throughout the festival, the Aymara buy an assortment of miniature models which represent the things they desire most. Once these miniatures are blessed by a local Shaman, it’s believed they will receive a real life version of the miniature within a year.

The event has it’s origins in pre-Columbian times when it was known as Chhalisita, which involved ancient Tiwinaku people praying for bountiful harvests through the exchange of 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. Later, the tradition 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 to accommodate revelers who have traveled from all over the country to purchase symbols of their greatest desires.

A smaller version of almost anything you can imagine is for sale, from miniature houses, apartment buildings, university degrees, and marriage certificates to laptops, cars and mobile phones. Those looking for love can buy miniature Roosters (which represent new love) while those with a desire to travel seek out little passports, plane tickets and suitcases. Unsurprisingly, money is the most popular item, available in pint-sized US, Euros and Boliviano bills. Just for laughs, there are miniature newspapers which are filled with spoof stories making 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 surprisingly, even the Catholic Church get involved, presumably because they can no longer suppress indigenous beliefs so they might as well support them in order to retain a 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. As hordes of revelers storm the church, panicked priests react by splashing holy water everywhere and hoping for the best.

While the 24th is the main day of the festival, miniatures can still be bought up to a month later and are kept proudly on display in family homes for months to come.

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