Alasita, the festival where your dreams become reality

Alejandra Campos

We often dream of having lots of money, new things, new houses, of achieving goals at university or at work or of having a partner or a child. But, imagine if you could buy a miniature of everything that you wanted and have it become a reality? This happens in many cities in Bolivia. For example, in La Paz, the Alasita festival is celebrated every year on the 24th of January, a day when many people gather in the streets searching for miniatures that represent money, houses, cars etc. They believe that over the course of the year, with the help of Ekeko (the main patron of this festival), the item represented by the miniature will become a reality.

According to the sociologist David Mendoza, the Aymara word 'alasita' means ´to buy or to exchange´. It is said that the people of the pre-Columbian period exchanged 'ilas' or miniatures of different objects and symbols of fertility. These included miniatures of the god Ekeko, god of abundance who nowadays appears as a short white man who blesses all of the miniatures. This tradition has continued, with some variation, over the course of time.

Nowadays, it is said that one should buy the item they desire at midday exactly on the 24th of January. At this moment, hundreds of people crowd the street surrounded by the smell of incense carried by 'yatiris' whilst searching through an infinite number of miniatures. The Aymara word 'yatiri' means wise and the yatiris specialize in performing indigenous rituals such as ´challar´, a ritual performed using incense, alcohol and a mixture of flowers to pray to and thank ´Pachamama´ or Mother Earth and Ekeko (god of abundance). Although this is a tradition with indigenous roots, nowadays it has been combined with the Catholic religion and many priests perform blessings on the miniatures in order to aid the conversion of the purchased object into reality.

In the streets, you can observe the sale of everything imaginable: houses of different sizes and colours, different models of cars, baskets of provisions for the family, plane tickets for those who wish to travel, money including bolivianos, dollars and euros, university degrees and marriage and divorce certificates. If you are searching for a partner, you should buy or receive a rooster or a hen which vary in size and colour according to their different meanings.

If you walk through the Alasita Festival, you will not only find all types of miniatures but also traditional food such as ´Plato Paceño´ along with games and crafts made by vendors that work all year to create their products and then sell them during the 15 days of the festival. Children, teenagers and adults meet here in order to share the festival with their family and friends.

Therefore, if you want your dreams to become a reality and you want to take part in an ancient festival, do not hesitate to come to La Paz on the 24th of January and enjoy this traditional celebration.     

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cities in Bolivia / Alasita festival / Aymara word 'yatiri' / La Paz on the 24th of January