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Bolivia: Celebrating Todos Santos

Bolivia recently celebrated the holiday of Todos Santos, which is based on All Saints Day. However, there are also native practices that have become a part of this important day. Local communities and families gather to bake bread, build altars to welcome the spirits of deceased relatives, and visit local cemeteries. Some participants of the project Voces Bolivianas (Bolivian Voices) chose to write about their experiences with this holiday.

Alberto Medrano of El Alto Noticias [es] took a more journalistic approach looking at the history of the date and how over the years it has had to compete with Halloween.

De seguro que la población alteña, visitará los Campo Santos de Villa Ingenio, Mercedario, llevando sus ofrendas, comida, música autóctona, esperemos que en esta ocasión no predomine la borrachera y el excesivo consumo de bebidas alcohólicas, y mas bien los familiares o amigos festejen de una manera sana el día de Todos Santos, y se discrimine totalmente a las “calabazas de Halloween”.

Surely the residents of El Alto will visit the (cemetary) Campo Santos de Villa Ingenio, Mercedario, by taking their offerings, food, local music, and we hope that on this occasion drunkeness and excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages will not dominant, and instead family members and friends celebrate All Saints Day in a healthy manner and it is totally distinct from the “Halloween pumpkins.”

Cristina Quisbert of Bolivia Indigena [es] describes the day's activities:

Ayer 1 de noviembre se recibió a las almas a medio día con una mesa preparada y adornada con diferentes tipos de panes, tantawawas, las coronas, la escalera, el caballo, frutas, pasancalla, flores, la comida preferida del difunto, etc. 2 de noviembre cargados de todo lo preparado nos dirigimos al cementerio para hacer rezar, no se acaba lo que hemos preparado, a cada risiri (rezador) le damos un plato compuesto de panes, fruta, pasancalla, etc.

Yesterday, on November 1 at noon, souls were welcomed with an altar prepared and decorated with different types of bread, tantawawas (bread in the form of children), crowns, ladders, horses, fruit, candy, flowers and the favorite food of the deceased. On November 2, with all of which was prepared, we went to the cemetery to pray, and to each person that prayed, we gave them a plate full of bread, fruit and candy, etc.

Due to his religious beliefs, Ruben Hilari of Lenguas y Comunicacion [es] does not observe the holiday, however, he shares an anectdote shared by a friend who experienced the holiday in a mine.

Esto sucedió cuando él tenía sus 8 años. Sucedió cuando el viajó a una de las minas con su madre para ir de visita ante su tía. Pasó cuando ellos habían planificado la visita en un todo los santos. La anécdota es que él y su mama sin saber muchos rezos lo habían hecho. Resulta que en la mina todos eran conocidos menos ellos. Lo anecdótico es que toda la gente les veían extraño y todos les invitaban para que rezaran. Toda la gente de la mina les rogaba. Ellos no pudiendo hacer nada iban comiendo de casa en casa solamente por lo que eran extraños.

This happened when he (Ruben's friend) was 8 years old. He took a trip with his mother to visit his aunt in one of the mines. It happened during a trip on All Saints Day. He and his mother visited without knowing many prayers. In the mine, everyone was familiar except for them and everyone looked at them strangely. However, all of them invited them to pray. All of them pleaded with them to pray. They couldn't do anything (because they didn't know the prayers), but still went from house to house where they were served food only because they were visitors.

Preparations for the holiday is a family affair. Graciela Romero of Compartiendo Ideas Nuevas [es] writes about baking the bread.

Los hornos hicieron su vientecuatreada sin descaso trabajaban porue salia uno entraba otra a las cinco de la mañana o en si segun la llegada lo que si estamos seguros es que cada uno hizo hacer a su gusto con los ingreientes que querían bueno también según el alcancé de cada bolsillo por ejemplo yo al ir venir o regresar veía ala gente a cargar sus panes a las señoras a otras se observaba llevando en carretones en .canastas,en bañadoras las tanta wawas,sus panes algunas hicieron a hacer su pan por costumbre o tradicion otras por la necesidad porque de seguro que el pan escaseara en las tiendas de las zonas el pan de batalla.

The ovens worked non-stop since one entered at 5 a.m. Each one made the bread according to their tastes, but as well as what they were able to afford. When I came, I saw the people load their breads and I saw women take the bread in baskets, carts or tubs. Some of the bread was made because of tradition and others were made out of necessity because there was no bread in the stores.

Finally, Juan Apaza of Corazon de los Andes [es] provides a descriptive account of his experiences on the date.

Una costumbre muy sutil de insertar ,la practican los padres,por medio de la familia a la comunidad .Obligado y arrastrado iba yo…¡ dejando mi bandera de individualismo!, y mas tarde : “a cumplior y seguir con entusiasmo esta tradicion”.
_Asi iba yo reflexionando,cuando ya se divisaba el lugar sacrosanto:_EL CEMENTERIO…
Uno espera ver a gente triste ,apenada,un ambiente funebre,llorando todos a moco tendido…¡pero no!
Todo es alboroso,ajetreo,musica,risas,alegria y compartimiento…
Y de repente:
_ Como estas hijo…!
_Alguien me agarra y me abraza! , y apenas reacciono y reconosco en ese semblante alegre ami tio(que no lo habia visto desde hace un año),y antes de que diga algo…:
_¡zaz!, ¡toma! servite esta chichita,cansado pareces.Agarro el vaso y al fondo

It is a tradition very gentle to be a part of, which is practiced by the parents, through the family to the community. I was obligated and dragged! Leaving behind my individualism! and later, “to fulfill and follow this tradition with enthusiasm.”
That is what I had reflected upon, when I saw the holy site: The Cementary
One would expect to see sad and sorrowful people at a funeral-like atmosphere, crying very messily, but no!
Everything was noisy and with a lot of bustle, music, laughter, joy and fellowship…
and then all of a sudden
“How's it going, son!”
Someone grabs me and gives me a hug. I react and recognize the happy figure as my uncle (I have not seen him in over a year) and soon after he says something..
“Here! Drink! Have some of this chicha (fermented corn drink), you look tired. I take the glass and drink the entire thing.

3 comments

  • Sin embargo, de a poco, la celebracion americana del Haloween va tomando cuerpo, principalmente en barrios acomodados.
    Es posible conservar la cultura en tiempos de globalizacion?

  • […] Artikel erschien zuerst auf Global Voices. Die Übersetzung erfolgte durch Clemens Harten, Teil des […]

  • […] The El Alto pilot project ran from September 22 through November 10. At least twice a week the program organizers, Mario, Hugo, and Eduardo would select a featured post from one of the participants and highlight it on the Voces Bolivianas portal. From there, many of the featured posts were then translated into English and Aymara. Hugo Miranda also posted a weekly summary rounding up the latest content from Voces Bolivianas bloggers. (Rezwan already pointed us to the first two weekly roundups.) In his latest summary, Hugo notes that Voces Bolivianas bloggers weren’t as active as in prior weeks, probably due to the festivities and family obligations that are a major part of Todos Santos, or “All Saint’s Day”. […]

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