Here in La Paz #Bolivia the last few days have been #Carnaval time, just like everywhere else in Latin America! So there’s been days of music, dancing, costumes, and of course drinking…and the Bolivians do love a beer or ten! Bolivia’s most famous Carnaval city is Oruro, upon which thousands descend, but everywhere gets into the mood.
What has made this years Carnaval across Bolivia a little different (and less messy) is that the ongoing drought has led to a ban on ‘water bombs’ (& water pistols) & the use of water generally at carnaval in every major city except Santa Cruz. So instead of everybody getting a complete soaking, you just get covered in aerosol foam/string! And sprayed with beer…
and deafened by the incessant firecrackers being let off all around.
Carnaval proper started here on Saturday with the childrens’ carnaval, but what with the pre-carnaval parties, the after-parties, and the fact they don’t put away (or bury) the carnaval clown (‘entierro del pepino’) until 5th March, it goes on longer than the 4 official days (Saturday to Tuesday) – see full La Paz programme (en Espanol). Monday & Tuesday are in fact public holidays, but of course plenty of people are still working, shops are open and transport running.
Anyone who has been to UK carnivals such as Notting Hill or Bristol will know what to expect, but here the events last longer each day, for more days, and are not so controlled. With much fewer cops & stewards, and it seems unlimited numbers of streetsellers, carnaval here seemed to be just a bit more random & crazy, although the levels of drunkenness are similar, if not worse.
Carnaval has of course been commercialised, attracting sponsors and so on. In La Paz the prime sponsor is Pacena, the local (lager) brewery, who seem to have the event sown up. Indeed they are by far the most prominent lager across the city’s bars & cafes (and shops), although recent years has thankfully seen a slow growth in craft beers – as we don’t rate Pacena!
Perhaps the major difference here with carnaval is that the Tuesday (‘Martes de Ch’alla’), in theory the last & more sober day, is heavily influenced by the Aymaran indigenous culture, and so for many is a day of thanksgiving to Pachamama (mother earth). Homes & gardens are decorated and offerings are made, both to thank the earth and in the hope of further abundance in times to come. Given the fact that Bolivia’s state of emergency due to the drought has been running for over 100 days now, this seems like a very good idea!