The Carnaval de Oruro is a centuries-old affair in Bolivia that is largely rooted in old Andean customs. Originally, the celebration revolved around honoring Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Tio Supay (Uncle God of the Mountains). Due to Spanish and Christian influences, Pachamama became a Virgin Mary figure of sorts over time, while Tio Supay basically took on the role of the Devil. In other words, this historic celebration has both pagan and Christian influences.
The Carnaval de Oruro is one of the most renowned annual events in Bolivia. As the name implies, it is held in the city of Oruro, which is located between La Paz and Potosi and is often referred to as the "Folklore Capital of Bolivia." The week leading up to Ash Wednesday is when most of the celebrations take place, and kicking things off is the " La Diablada", or devil dance. The La Diablada Bolivia dance has changed very little over time. Performers still wear masks and devil costumes, much like they have for centuries, and good is pitted against evil.
The Carnaval de Oruro is characterized by lots of singing and dancing. Revelers also tend to do their fair share of drinking. It is a very celebratory time, though tourists shouldn’t just look at it as an opportunity to party. The festival has great cultural value. In fact, because of its cultural value, the Carnaval de Oruro was designated by UNESCO as one of the world’s "Masterpieces of Oral Heritage and Intangible Heritage of Humanity." The proclamation of this designation was broadcast from UNESCO’s home city of Paris in 2001.
Image: CassandraW1 (flickr)