Meet The Alasita Fair In La Paz

Every January, in the Bolivian city of La Paz, a fair is held in which wishes in the form of miniatures are transformed into reality through faith. It is the Feria de la Alasita. Do you also want to make your wishes come true? Let’s see how the people of La Paz do it.
Meet the Alasita Fair in La Paz

Bolivia is one of the countries in South America where we can still feel elements of the religious syncretism that was forged among the indigenous populations of the region after the encounter with the European populations. An example of this is the famous Feria de la Alasita.

This festival, inscribed on the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is celebrated in the city of La Paz. It begins on January 24 and lasts between two and three weeks. Join us to discover this curious La Paz fair.

Origins of the Alasita Fair

During the days of the fair, visitors buy figurines of good luck linked to the Ekeko cult. This is a deity of pre-Hispanic origin linked to human production, reproduction, fertility and well-being. The researchers maintain that the Alasita has its origins in a pre-Hispanic ritual celebration celebrated on the summer solstice (December 21).

Ekeko figure
Ekeko

The festival was dedicated to the god Ekeko and consisted of exchanging miniatures, amulets that symbolized and promoted the reproductive power of objects, food, animals and people. According to sources from popular legends or colonial chronicles, this festival was prohibited during colonial times, although it continued to be performed clandestinely.

The Alasita legend tells that during Tupac Atari’s siege of La Paz, the city was deprived of supplies. However, the governor realized that the servants did have food. How could it be? He questioned a young woman who worked in the house and she told him that the Ekeko had brought them to him.

It was after the siege of the city in 1789 when the Alasita festival was legalized again and the existing representations of the deity were added to the defender of the city.

Of course, some things were changed. For example, the figure of Ekeko was whitened, representing him as a plump, white or mestizo man with rosy cheeks. The date of the celebration was also changed, first it passed to the month of October to finally settle on January 24.

The Alasita Fair today

Ritual coins

In the Central Urban Park there are around 5000 artisans who settle in the fair to sell miniatures. The ritual consists of the acquisition of these miniatures that represent objects of daily life such as cars, houses, clothes, electrical appliances, money, etc.

On the 24th at noon these miniatures are subjected to a ritual. This may consist of a ch’alla, an Andean ritual by which the ground is sprinkled with alcohol, flower petals, incense, or other colorful ornaments. They can also be blessed by Catholic priests.

The ultimate goal of this ritualization is that the miniatures take on a new meaning for those who placed their faith in them. In other words, it is about the figurines becoming reality. Another of the common practices carried out by the participants of the fair is to exchange figures as a way to symbolically pay off their debts.

For example, there are people who buy miniature tickets to ensure they have money throughout the year. Others buy university degrees to finish their studies or suitcases that symbolize a trip. It is also common to buy or give figures of roosters or hens to single people, because with them they will find the ideal partner. And those who do not have children are given a miniature of a baby.

What role does the fair play in La Paz society?

Figures at the Alasita Fair

This fair is truly interesting, not only for the most folkloric part, but for its contribution to social cohesion. This means that participation is not restricted to a single sector of the population . Rich, poor, Catholic or Aymara people from La Paz massively attend the fair.

Another important element of the role that this fair plays at a social level is that of calming tensions between people and social classes. This is so because of the practice of handing over thumbnails as a symbolic form of debt payment.

If you are interested in discovering new and different worlds, the Alasita Fair in La Paz will not disappoint you. Now, if it is impossible for you to undertake the trip to the highest capital in the world, inform yourself that this fair has been exported by the Bolivian community to other parts of the world. Thus, you can celebrate it in Buenos Aires, Madrid, Barcelona or Seville.

Get to know some unique Latin American traditions

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