So, in my last post I explained a bit about Carnival in Sucre, little did i know then what was in store in Oruro, the biggest Carnival celebration in Bolivia. Im not really sure when the party officially started, but it was already happening when we got there friday night. Bands playing, street food, streets so crowded you could barely move.
The official parade, which is why everyone comes, started something like 9am on Saturday morning. It didnt finish until like 3am Sunday. And then they did it all again in reverse order again 9am Sunday morning, until yet again like 3am Monday.
The costumes were incredible and elaborate. Some costing upwards of $500 USD, that in a country where according to the World Bank the GNI per capita annually is only $1,460 USD. But they were fantastic. It was very different from a parade in the US which is dominated by extravagant floats and balloons, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade i grew up watching from my grandma’s tv. Rather this was all about the dancers. There were several different kinds of dancers, each with their own corresponding costume. And they all represented different periods or regions of Bolivia and its traditions.
There were thousands of dancers. For the people towards the second half, they were walking for over six hours! and all the girls in high platform boots! To add to that, most of the girls were in short little skirts and corsets, but then there were also older women in beautiful full skirts. I was happy to see that there was a special role for not only the young ‘sexy’ girls.
Marching bands also made up an important part of the whole parade. All the rest of the groups were moving to their music. It was really fun moments when the band would play some song that every single Bolivian in the crowd seemed to know. Everyone would get so into singing along at the top of their voice. The enthusiasm and happiness was contagious.
Once it got dark out, things only got all the more dramatic. Many of the performers had red emergency flares, much like you would use if your car broke down in the desert! But the effect of the light and smoke, mixed with the costumes felt something very other-wordly…