When to go
Over here you will find information about holidays in Bolivia and when it is the best time to come to Bolivia and what you can do best.
|January 1||New Year||National|
|January 24||Alasitas||La Paz|
|February 2||Virgen de la Candelaria||Copacabana|
|February or March||Carnaval and La Diablada||Oruro|
|February or March||Carnaval del Oriente||Santa Cruz|
|February 22||Local Holiday||Oruro|
|March or April||Good Friday and Easter||National|
|Second Sunday in March||Pujllay||Tarabuco|
|April 15||Local Holiday||Tarija|
|May 1||Labor Day||National|
|May 25||Local Holiday||Chuquisaca|
|Late May or early June||El Gran Poder||La Paz|
|July 16||Local Holiday||La Paz|
|July 31||Santo Patron de Moxos||San Ignacio de Moxos|
|August 5||Virgen de Copacabana||Copacabana|
|August 6||Independence Day||National|
|August 10 - 13||San Lorenzo||San Lorenzo|
|August 15 - 18||Virgen de Urcupiña||Quillacollo|
|First week of September||San Roque||Tarija|
|First week of September||Virgen de Guadalupe||Sucre|
|September 14||Local Holiday||Cochabamba|
|September 24||Local Holiday||Santa Cruz and Pando|
|October 12||Columbus Day||National|
|November 1||All Saints Day||National|
|November 2||All Souls Day||National|
|November 10||Local Holiday||Potosi|
|November 18||Local Holiday||Beni|
|December 25||Christmas Day||National|
This is a colourful, happy event tinged with poignancy. At the end of January the streets in the centre of La Paz fill with people from the city and the countryside, many of them in traditional dress, eagerly buying finely-crafted miniatures from street stalls and vendors. The figures represent material goods that the people aspire to own. It might be a tiny automobile or a bag of cement to represent a new home. A miniature passport or postage stamp might secure a dream of travel and tiny banknotes might bring wealth. One of the most popular figurine is Ekeko, "The God of Abundance", a popular, generous and all encompassing divinity. At the end of frenzied buying and selling there is a procession to visit the Yatiri, a wizard who blesses all the objects.
The festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria, in many images, is celebrated on February 2 in various Hispanic Catholic countries, including Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela and Uruguay.
The celebrations in Peru and Bolivia are centered around Lake Titicaca, in Puno and the small village of Copacabana. In Bolivia, the Virgen is also known as the Dark Virgin of the Lake, and the Patroness Of Bolivia. She is revered for a series of miracles, recounted in Nuestra Señora de Copacabana and has another festival on August 5. Normally, Copacabana is a quiet, rural village with fishing and agriculture the mainstays. However, the week before and the day of the fiesta, the village changes.
There are parades, colorful costumes, music and a lot of drinking and celebrating. New vehicles are brought in from all over Bolivia to be blessed with beer. People gather for days ahead to pray and to celebrate in a mixture of Catholic and native religions. Bolivian celebrants believe the Virgen prefers to stay inside the Basilica erected in her honor. When taken outside, there is a risk of storm or other calamity.
Say Carnaval and what images come to mind? Fantastically and scantily garbed dancers, pounding samba rhythms, parades, incessant revelry? Carnaval de Oruro, Bolivia?
In Bolivia, Oruro, Santa Cruz, Tarija and La Paz hold carnavals but the carnaval in Oruro,is the most famous. It takes place for the eight days preceeding Ash Wednesday. Unlike carnaval in Rio where the escolas de samba choose a new theme each year, carnaval in Oruro always begins with the diablada or devil dance. The diablada is a centuries-old ritual surviving unchanged from colonial days.
Next are hundreds of devils in monstrous costumes. The heavy masks have horns bulging eyes fangs long hair and in contrast to the frightening masks the devils wear sparkling breastplates silk embroidered shawls and golden spurs. Between the devils groups of dancers dressed as monkeys pumas and insects caper to the music from brass bands, or pipers or drummers. The noise is loud and frenzied.
Out of the devil dancers comes China Supay, the Devil's wife, who dances a seductive dance to entice the Archangel Michael. Around her dance the members of local workers unions, each carrying a small symbol of their union such as pickaxes or shovels. Dancers dressed as Incas with condor headdresses and suns and moons on their chests dance along with dancers dressed as the black slaves imported by the Spaniards to work in the silver mines.
Family members led by the matriarchs in yellow dresses appear in order: first the husbands dressed in red, next come the daughters in green, followed by the sons in blue. The families dance their way to the football stadium where the next part of the celebrations takes place.
Two plays begun, as medieval mystery plays, are enacted. The first portrays the Conquest by the Spanish conquistadores. The second is the triumph of the Archangel Michael as he defeats the devils and the Seven Deadly Sins with his flaming sword. The results of the battle are announced the Patron Saint of the Miners the Virgen del Socavon and the dancers sing a Quecha hymn.
Although the references to the Spanish conquest and the downtrodden state of the Bolivian peasants are very clear, this festival is based on the pre-Colonial ceremony of giving thanks to the earth-mother Pachamama. It commemorates the struggles of good and evil and the early Catholic priests allowed it to continue with a Christian overlay in an effort to pacify the local natives.
The celebration of carnaval continues for days as the diablada dancers break into smaller groups and continue dancing around huge bonfires. Onlookers join the procession at any point and with the consumption of strong Bolivian beer and the very potent chicha made from fermented cereals and corn they get rowdy. Many sleep in doorways or where they fall until they awake and continue celebrating. If you plan to be in Oruro or any of the towns celebrating carnaval, follow the basic safety precautions:
Refleja el espíritu alegre del pueblo cruceño. Comienza un mes antes con las fiestas "precarnavaleras" en las que participan todas las comparsas juveniles encabezadas por su Reina. Una semana antes del carnaval se lleva a cabo el minicorso en el cual se realiza la proclamación de la soberana anual del Carnaval .
A partir del atardecer del sábado y hasta el amanecer del domingo de carnaval tiene lugar el deslumbrante Corso en el que "saltan" alrededor de 300 comparsas. Las mismas recorren las calles de la ciudad al ritmo de bandas y "tamborita". En el recorrido el visitante podrá admirar un marco desbordante de lujo y colorido en hermosas fantasías, impresionantes carros alegóricos que transportan a las reinas, también percibirá el intento por rescatar los motivos regionales y el respeto al medio ambiente.
El espectáculo adquiere su máxima fastuosidad cuando ingresa la reina del carnaval cruceño con toda su corte constituida por los integrantes de la comparsa coronadora.
En estas fiestas la mujer es la principal protagonista pues, al estar completamente disfrazada, hace de las suyas escogiendo pareja, coqueteando e invitando a bailar a los varones que asisten a dichas fiestas. El público podrá apreciar que la entrada de los grupos está dividida en tres bloques folklóricos: regional, nacional e internacional.
También participan de esta fiesta conjuntos típicos, entre los que destacan los de la Chiquitanía que entran acompañados de tamboristas al son de chovenas (ritmo oriental).
El frenesí continua el domingo, lunes y martes , días en que la población baila y se divierte en las calles céntricas de la ciudad jugando con agua, pintura y espumas, viviendo momentos de total alegría.
The Pujllay or Game begins with a Catholic mass in Quechua language it stops then to continue with the party and the rejoicing for the victory of the Battle of " Jumbata " in a parade of nonpareil coloring, the peasants move to the place where the Pucara is and they dance in circles to its surroundings to the they are of the Tokoros, Pinquillos, Spurs, Bells and Drummers.
The Pucara that consists on a support or stairway covered with great variety of agricultural products, besides drinks, breads and others taken place by the peasants of the region.
If you are traveling in Latin America on the first day of May, you can expect to find banks, government offices, stores, post offices and businesses closed for the day as people celebrate the Día Internacional Del Trabajo with parades, demonstrations and other symbols of solidarity with the worker.
Bolivia celebrated Día Internacional del Trabajo for the first time on May 1, 1936. Day of the Worker, or May Day, had already been established in Europe, and would shortly sweep across the Latin American countries.
The communist and socialist countries embraced the day, and over time, May Day became associated with those political systems in many non-English speaking countries.
"In Paris in 1889 the International Working Men's Association (the First International) declared May 1st an international working class holiday in commemoration of the Haymarket Martyrs. The red flag became the symbol of the blood of working class martyrs in their battle for workers rights."
The Origins And Traditions Of Mayday
Who were the Haymarket Martyrs? They are all but ignored in the history of the United States, who moved the May Day labor celebrations to September. May Day: what happened to the radical workers' holiday? The first Monday in September is now the Labor Day holiday, but it has very little to do with the reason for a working man's holiday. This history is detailed in May Day - the Real Labor Day.
Long before May Day, The Workers' Day, born in the struggle for the eight-hour day came to be, the first of May was a traditional day of feasting, celebrating spring, fertility, romance and more.
The Pagan Origins of May Day asks "Why did the Labour Movement choose May Day as International Labour Day? It's more that May Day chose the Labour Movement. Unlike Easter, Whitsun or Christmas, May Day is the one festival of the year for which there is no significant church service. Because of this it has always been a strong secular festival, particularly among working people who in previous centuries would take the day off to celebrate it as a holiday, often clandestinely without the support of their employer. It was a popular custom, in the proper sense of the word - a people's day - so it was naturally identified with the Labour and socialist movements and by the twentieth century it was firmly rooted as part of the socialist calendar."
So now you know why everything shuts down on May 1. It's a good idea to play it safe that day and stay away from parades and rallies that might prove explosive.
The merging of pre-Columbian religions and the Roman Catholic faith created a number of religious observations, including the Fiesta del Gran Poder celebrated primarily in La Paz, Bolivia. The event began in the late 1930's with a small number of dancers and is today a huge event.
The festival centers around the devotion to Christ as the second person in the Holy Trinity based on an anonymous painting of the Trinity dating from the early XVII century. The three entities were painted withIndian or mestizo features. Though the Catholic church had forbidden human representations of the Holy Trinity, a young novice named Genoveva Carrión took it with her when she entered the Monasterio de la Purísima Concepción. When the religious order downsized, the painting found its way into different lay hands, finally ending up with Plácido López who lived in the barrio Chijini in la Paz.
A small chapel was built to honor the Holy Trinity and then Bishop Augsto Scheifert direct two not-quite-expert artists to paint over the two side figures. They did so, but one, wanting to retouch the eyes, came back one night. When the remaining figure moved its head, the artist fled, but many favors or miracles were attributed to the Christ figure. Devotion grew and in 1939 the chapel was officially named Iglesia Parroquial del Gran Poder.
In the years since, the festival of El Gran Poder has grown into an international celebration. Parades and processions with the dark figure of the Christ (see photo), music and costumed dancers honoring cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Of these, La Morenada is the most famous.
Held annually at the beginning of June, the Fiesta del Gran Poder is La Paz's biggest street party. Copious amount of local beers and food are consumed. Visitors wanting a place to stay during the celebrations make advance reservations.
October 12 (or the nearest Monday to it) is traditionally celebrated throughout the Americas as the day Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492.
In English speaking countries, the day is celebrated as Columbus Day or Native American Day. In Spanish speaking countries and communities, is is known as Día de la Raza, the Day of the Race.
Día de la Raza is the celebration of the Hispanic heritage of Latin America and brings into it all the ethnic and cultural influences making it distinctive.
It is celebrated on October 12 in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela, Not anymore in Bolivia, because the strong feelings about the real situation of native americans on Spaniards Rule.
A few historical facts behind the holiday:
Now, 500 plus years later, we recall his deeds and celebrate not Columbus the man, but the actions and influences of all the people who came after him, who melded their European culture with the indigenous cultures and, with difficulty, blood and years of battle, misunderstandings and treachery, have created the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society we now celebrate with the Día de la Raza.
Note: It was up to others to name the places where he had landed or to discover the route to China. Amerigo Vespucci named Venezuela afer his native Venice, and Vasco da Gama sailed round the Cape of Good Hope and the Indian Ocean to the Far East, opening the Spice Route for Portugal.
November 1 is celebrated throughout the Catholic world as Día de Todos Santos, or All Saints Day, to honor all the saints, known and unknown, of the Catholic faithful. Every day of the year has its own saint or saints, but there are more saints than calendar days, and this one major holy day honors them all, including those who had died in a state of grace but had not been canonized. And, to keep things fair, November 2 is celebrated as the Day of All Souls.
Día de Todos Santosis also known as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Like many other Catholic celebrations, in the New World it was grafted onto existing indigenous festivities to meld the "new" Catholicism with the "old" pagan beliefs.
In countries where the Europeans eventually reduced the indigenous populations, by one means or another, the celebrations gradually lost their native meaning and became more of a traditional Catholic event.
In Latin American countries where the indigenous culture is still strong, such as in Guatemala and Mexico in Central America, and in Bolivia in South America, Día de Todos Santosis an important meld of many influences.
In Central America, the dead are honored by visits to the their gravesites, often with food, flowers and all family members. In Bolivia, the dead are expected to return to their homes and villages.
The Andean emphasis is agricultural, since November 1 is in spring south of the Equator. It is the time of returning rains and the reflowering of the earth. The souls of the dead also return to reaffirm life.
During this time, the doors are opened to guests, who enter with clean hands and share in the traditional dishes, particularly the favorites of the deceased. Tables are bedecked with bread figurines called t'antawawas, sugarcane, chicha, candies and decorated pastries.
At the cemeteries, the souls are greeted with more food, music, and prayers. Rather than a sad occasion, the Día de Todos Santos is a joyous event.
In Peru, November 1 is celebrated nationally, but in Cuzco its known as Día de todos los Santos Vivos, or Day of the Living Saints and celebrated with food, particularly the famed suckling pig and tamales. November 2 is considered the Día de los Santos Difuntosor Day of the Deceased Saints and is honored with visits to cemeteries.
Wherever you are in Latin America on the first and second of November, enjoy the local holidays!
A religios festival for the virgin of the snow. Mass, folkloric dancing and processions. 5th - 6th Virgen de Copacabana - Copacabana (La Paz).
Celebration for the Virgin of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Dancing, processions, folkloric displays.
Festival in Quillacollo (Cochabamba). One of the most important religious festivals in Cochabamba. It is a colorful & religious festival with a large mass, folkloric dancing, processions, typical food and the sale of miniature handicrafts.
The Chutillos festival in Potosi is definitely worth it. Especially the first day with the authentic dances and costumes is marvelous.
Festivals celebrated in Viacha (La Paz), Sucre (Chuquisaca) and Valle Grande (Santa Cruz), but by far in Sucre is the biggest.
A religious festival in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Folkloric dances, bull fights, music, dancing and typical food and drink.
Festival in Tarija, (Although the fiesta day of San Roque is officially on the 16th of August). An 8-day long celebration for the patron saint of dogs, San Roque. Unique costumes, processions, music and dancing. The biggest party and typical of the Tarija region with its unique music style.