The Alasitas Fair in Bolivia

The Alasitas fair is an annual month-long cultural event starting on January 24th in La Paz, Bolivia. It honours Ekeko, the Aymara god of abundance, and is noted for the giving of miniature items. The indigenous Aymara people observed an event called Chhalasita in the pre-Columbian era, when people prayed for good crops and exchanged basic goods. Over time, it evolved to accommodate elements of Catholicism and Western acquisitiveness. Its name is the Aymara word for “buy me”. The Alasitas festival is held annually for the Ekeko. It sprawls along many streets and parks in central La Paz and smaller events are held in many neighborhoods around the city. People attend the event from all over the city and even travel from other cities inside Bolivia to buy miniature versions of goods they would like to give to somebody else. These goods can be blessed by any one of the men and (less frequently) women acting as shaman. It is believed that if somebody gives a miniature version, the recipient will get the real object in the course of the following year. Examples of goods that can be bought are household items, food, computers, construction materials, cell phones, houses, cars, university diplomas and even figures of domestic workers (whom the recipient might hope to employ).

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A woman sells statues of the Ekeko, god of fortune, at the traditional “Alasitas” fair in La Paz January 24, 2015. During the fair, Bolivians buy miniature versions of goods like cars, money and houses they would like to own in real life during the year. (Photo by David Mercado/Reuters)
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