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.
“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
When you don’t plan much on your travels, you can stumble upon big surprises. Argentinians carrying the country’s longest flag through the streets of Rosario was one of them. Continue reading
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).
Each year Argentineans honor their flag and commemorate its creator, General Manual Belgrano. He hoisted it for the first time near the Paraná River, opposite Rosario, in 1812.
One of the particularities of this occasion is that the civilians carry the country’s longest flag through the streets. This is just one of the examples of extraordinary celebrations Argentina has. There are many more. For example, have you ever heard of the Day of the Unborn Child, or Boyfriend’s Day? Some that raise an eyebrow: Day of the Asshole, and Day of the Goalkeeper?
In fact, Argentina has some 150 days per year dedicated to national and public holidays. How many there are varies per month. February with only three commemorative days stands in contrast to October, which has about twenty of them.
It takes a while to understand the nuances in Argentina’s maze of holidays, not in the least because Argentinians themselves may not familiar with all of them. So I decided to do a blog post on the subject, trying to make some sense of it all.
Whether they make sense to you or not, just join and enjoy them!
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
A masque in the dance of La Diablada – Dance of the Devils (©photocoen)
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
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
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