Sunday, June 3, 2012

Gran Poder 2012

Yesterday was a big day in La Paz - the festival of Gran Poder. This is a vaguely religious festival, celebrated since 1663. The festival is marked with a giant parade that lasts, I kid you not, from 7 am til long past dark. There are thousands and thousands of dancers, wearing incredibly elaborate and expensive costumes. They don't just dance to whatever pop song is on the radio. Instead they have several traditional dances that depict segments of society and periods in their history. The whole thing is a massive production and the more I found out about it the more interesting it became.

Let me caveat the below pictures by emphasizing that it is incredibly hard to photograph moving targets without experience/a really good camera. I did my best, let your imagination and/or Youtube fill in the rest.

First, there's the Suri Sikuri, a dance symbolizing ostriches. This one is my favorite. There were only a couple of troops dancing it. I can only imagine how difficult it is to keep those feather things on your head.

There's the Morenada, which represents the Afro-Bolivians, brought originally to work in the mines around Potosi. The dancers wear barrel shaped costumes. I'm not sure why, but I assume it has something to do with mining. They have very stylized faces, but are clearly supposed to be black men. This was a very popular dance (every 2nd or 3rd group did the Morenada). I'm not sure why the hispanic Bolivians identify so much with the Afro-Bolivians. And I'm not sure why they don't just invite some Afro-Bolivians to dance the Morenada. But whatever the reason, it's an interesting cultural statement.

Next most popular were the the caporales, representing cowboys/girls the Spanish military. Their outfits seemed kind of scandalous by Bolivian standards.

Then there are the bull fighters. The dance is called Waka Tokoris and satirizes bullfighting - which was an activity reserved for the Spanish colonizers when the dance was created. Is it just me or does that bull's head look kind of real? And are those spoons on the back of the costume? Hm….

Next are the weavers, they dance the Kullawada - you can see the little spinners they hold. They also were identifiable by the fringed hats.

Isn't she cute?

To be continued when my internet connection is a bit more powerful...

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