Bolivians stage miniature festival in tribute to god of abundance
Bolivia is throwing a little party. Literally. It’s a yearly festival in which street vendors hawk everything miniature — from houses to clothes to passports — for small bills of fake money.
The old month-long fair that started Thursday is called ‘Alasita,’ which means ‘buy me’ in the indigenous Aymara language. It is all a tribute to a god of abundance in farming and fertility, named Ekeko.
It goes back to the pre-Columbian period, and the idea is that the small stuff people buy in street stands in January will become real over the course of the year.
Several types of funny currency are accepted, thank you, be it dollars, euros or local bolivianos.
Newspapers get into the act by publishing small versions of themselves (10 X 14 cm, or 4 X 6 inches) in which they mock politicians, showbiz beautiful people and athletes.
Editors go to town with photo-montages to make fun of big wigs, and headlines and stories get wild.
To wit, in the daily Pagina Siete, this take on landlocked Bolivia’s long-standing claim to access to the Pacific Ocean via Chile since losing a war with it in the 19th century: “Chile offers 10,000 bottles of salt water to settle maritime dispute.”
Tense bilateral relations were depicted in the daily La Razon, which showed President Evo Morales and Chilean counterpart Sebastian Pinera in football jerseys depicting their country’s flags and legs like those of robots.
It said Morales gave Pinera “a resounding kick in the privates in a game over the maritime access.” This alluded to a game a few years ago in which Morales, an avid football fan, did in fact give an opponent a kick in his nether parts over what the president called rough play.
The newspaper gimmick goes back to 1846, and in 2011 the small papers were recognized in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, a list of documentary heritage items.
“I buy the ‘Alasita” newspapers every year to laugh. What with all the bad news we have every day, at least we have fun with these amusing news stories,” said a woman named Cecilia Sosa as she bought a copy of La Razon.
A plaza in downtown La Paz will bear witness to all the miniature merriment this month.
Ekeko is depicted as a chubby man with sideburns and a mustache. He is supposed to grant what you ask him for.
“I bought essentials, milk, flour and everything so I will not go without it for the rest of the year,” said Gregoria Averanga, her hands full of wee purchases.
Some historians trace the god back to the culture of a people called the Tiwanacota, who disappeared in the 13th century before the emergence of the Inca empire.
Others link the little god to an Aymara Indian named Thunupa, who was supposed to have performed miracles.
Yet another theory takes the story back to an indigenous siege of La Paz in 1781. Amid widespread famine, an indigenous woman provided food and among it all was a small statuette of an unknown figure.