Bolivia: The largest Andean religious festival returns to the streets

LA PAZ, Bolivia ( Associated Press) — The joy, the manifestations of faith and the color of thousands of dancers returned to the streets of the city of La Paz on Saturday, when the largest Andean religious festival in Bolivia was celebrated, which was suspended for the last two years due to the pandemic.

The entry of folk dances in honor of the Lord Jesus of Great Power premiered its title of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity granted by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture.

“I’m going back… to dance for Tatita (Lord Jesus of Great Power). Thank you for everything he has given me,” Carlos Gonzáles, a 38-year-old dancer who works as an appliance salesman, told The Associated Press.

Gonzáles danced “La morenada”, a typical dance born in the highlands that is inspired by the slave trade in the Andean region during the colony and whose influence has spread to Peru, Chile and Argentina in recent decades.

“It is the relief of many people. Having come out of this pandemic that has taken many friends… It is a joy and an emotion,” said Nancy Aguilar, a spectator.

This year, to avoid the spread of COVID-19, it was required that the more than 60,000 dancers from 73 fraternities and 4,000 musicians be vaccinated against the disease. It was also urged to continue using the masks as a precaution.

“We deserve this party, much more in tribute to our Lord who protected us and allowed us to be alive,” Mayor Iván Arias told local media.

The religious festival moves the economy of many artisans, musicians, vendors, among others. Over the years it has become a cultural icon of the city, but also a party that mixes religious codes and elements of social advancement. Through dancing, the fraternities show off the economic power of an emerging bourgeoisie with a mestizo face, according to specialists.

The holiday takes place amid an increase in coronavirus infections, which has caused more than 21,000 deaths in the country, according to authorities.

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