The Andacollo Festival in Chile

According to its inhabitants, Andacollo is the most religious town of Chile. It features a basilica plus a second church, both of which are National Monuments. La Virgen de Andacollo is highly regarded and each first Sunday of the month she is paraded around the plaza in a procession. The first Sunday of October she is honored with a religious festival called La Fiesta Chico, but the spectacle of the year is in December: La Fiesta Grande, which lasts from the 23rd to the 27th.

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Watch the Highest Polo Tournament in the World (Pakistan)

Starting from behind the goal line, holding the ball and mallet in one hand and perfectly restraining his horse with the other, the horseman slowly moves forward. When he approaches the center of the field, he spurs his horse to maximum speed, tosses the ball into the air, hits just before it reaches the ground and launches it deep into defensive territory, where scrimmage and chaos reign. Continue reading

Watching the Urkupiña Festival in Bolivia

Diablado

According to the most popular story, a young shepherd girl daily herded her sheep on a stony hill, where the Virgin Mary appeared to her several times. At one time she indicated the Virgin to her parents, shouting, “Orkopiña” – “There, on that hill”, as the Virgin was ascending towards heaven. On the summit they found a stone image of the Virgin, which since then has been kept in the church in Quillacollo. Continue reading

Joining a Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath Cave (India)

The goal of our Hindu pilgrimage is almost in sight: an ice stalagmite. A holy one, mind you. I flop down on an ice-cold stone and vigorously rub my feet that have turned blue and lost all feeling after I climbed stone steps without number in subzero temperatures. Barefoot, that is. Continue reading

Celebrating the Aymara New Year in La Paz, Bolivia

Two Aymara shamans are building a bonfire and laying out offerings for good health and fortune: a dried lama fetus and sugar tablets depicting a house, moneybags and other symbols of wealth and health. Dressed in bright-colored ponchos and woolen headdresses, the amautas walk about in a circle formed by devotees and a couple of foreigners. They interrupt their preparations by calling onto Pachamama (mother earth) and Pachakama (the universe) to bless the New Year. Continue reading

Watching a Soccer Game in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracaña Stadium, Brazil

One of the most unexpected sites I ever did in our 13-year journey was visiting a soccer stadium and actually watching a soccer game. Traveling is full of surprises, and here I stood, in 2007, in the what ‘everybody’ considered to be the most famous stadium in the world.

Football Game in Maracaña, Rio de Janeiro (©photocoen)“You can’t leave Rio de Janeiro without having seen the Maracaña Stadium!”

“The what?” I couldn’t even pronounce the word.

“The Maracaña Stadium! You don’t know what it is?”

“Sorry, never heard of it.” Continue reading

Celebrations and Holidays in Argentina

During Flag Day, Argentina's largest flag is carried around (©photocoen)

During Flag Day, Argentina’s largest flag is carried around

We thought Rosario was one of Argentina’s most ordinary cities in the country. Nope, it isn’t. One morning we went for a walk and noticed lots of people were gathering along the sides of the streets. Some parts were fenced off, others weren’t. We had stumbled upon Día de la Bandera Nacional, or Flag Day, which is one of Argentina’s national holidays (read about it here).

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Alasitas Festival of the Aymará God Ekeko (Bolivia)

Ekeko, Bolivia's God of Abundance, is Bolivia's central figure during the Alasitas Festival (©photocoen)

Meet Ekeko, Bolivia’s God of Abundance (©Coen Wubbels)

Calle Sagárnaga, also known as Calle de las Brujas (Witches’ Market) is the commercial center of La Paz’ indigenous handicraft of miniatures and thus an important part of the Alasitas Festival. It lies in the heart of the city’s tourist center with thousands of tourists strolling down the alleys in search of souvenirs and admiring the local curiosities of miniatures and other products that bring good fortune.

In the Witches’ Market you will find a zillion miniatures, and shelves full of potions, natural herbs and dried fetuses. How intriguing is that? We know from, among other places, Thailand, that people buy fake money and burn it in ovens to appease evil spirits or offer paper replicas of material possessions they would like to own. Now we see that in Bolivia they have a similar ritual, albeit with its own, local traditions and customs. Continue reading

5 Popular Religious Festivals in Bolivia

Processions are an important part of religious festivals in Bolivia (©photocoen)

During our continuous journey in South America that started in 2007, we visited Bolivia six times. In total we spent about a year in this diverse country. We were particularly captivated by the extremes in landscapes and the Bolivians’ strong need for celebrations. Although we never planned to be in a certain place for a particular festival, procession, or fiesta, we stumbled on them regularly. Continue reading

Famous Traditional Dances in Bolivia

A mask in the traditional dance of La Diablada.

A mask in the dance of La Diablada – Dance of the Devils (©Coen Wubbels)

Many Bolivian festivals are a form of religious celebration, expressing a syncretism of paganism and Catholicism. Folkloric dances and music each have their unique costumes, musical instruments and rhythms, and the celebrations may last for days on end, often from early morning to late at night. Continue reading

Día del Mar – Bolivia Commemorates the War of the Pacific

Día del Mar in La Paz, Bolivia (©photocoen)One of Bolivia’s important days of commemoration is Día del Mar. During this ‘Day of the Sea’ the country remembers the War of the Pacific in 1879, during which Bolivia lost its access to the Pacific Ocean. In La Paz the occasion includes a daylong parade of military units, government departments and youth bands. Continue reading