The Alasitas festival is an annual event that, on the 24th January, transforms the Bolivian city of La Paz into the beating heart of a strange party. In the recurrence, thousands of local people, and not only, flock in the characteristic miniature market, for buying objects and wishes for themselves and their families. But let’s see exactly what we are talking about!
The Alasitas tradition, literally “abundance”, dates back to the pre-Columbian period. The Aymara people organized this event where the peasants prayed to Ekeko, a sort of wealth and abundance God, offering him miniature gifts in exchange for abundant harvests. Originally the date of the celebrations was on the 20th October. The date was then moved, at the end of the VIII century, by the Spanish colonizers, to the 24th January, in order to commemorate the siede of La Paz in 1781, led by the independence activist, Tupac Katari. The festival, one month long, has obviously evolved over time, being influenced by the Catholic Church during the colonial period.
Today, in the city market, you can find the most diferent objetcs and, as tradition wants, everyone buys what he wants to reach for the following year! You can move from the most basic things, such as food or clothes, to the more demading and modern things: cell phones, computers, cars, houses, school qualifications, all of them absolutely in miniature! It is a celebration of big desires and aspirations and everything is done with the hope of receiving the purchased products during the year. In order to get their wishes, Bolivians have a small statue of Ekeko in their houses, to which they will donate the miniatures, waiting for them to arrive in real life and in full size!
As already mentioned, the Catholic Church has joined the tradition and so, after having their products blessed by a Yatiri (Aymara shaman), people also have them blessed by a priest in the Cathedral of the city.
The Alasitas fair has also spread to other cities of the country and continent. For some people it is a serious event beyond the folklore. In fact, many locals believe that the festivity actually defines material wealth and that, in exchanfe of the gifts, Ekeko take care of their family, keeping bad luck away and returning the generosity received.