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).

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 masque in the dance of La Diablada, Urkupiña Festival in Cochabamba, Bolivia (©photocoen)

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

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

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