Every year, on the last Saturday of July, university students from La Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA) in La Paz perform folk dances in the streets of the city to celebrate their cultural heritage.Typically, this event has been incorporated into celebrations for El Día de La Paz on the 16th of July, as it is considered an appropriate reminder of La Paz’s diversity, rich history and the freedom of its people.
The ‘Feast Day of the Almighty Lord’ is one of the most extravagant and important festivals in the Bolivian calendar. Although a relatively modern festival (20th century), this annual event has its earliest origins in the 17th century when peasants used to pay homage to an unusual three-faced image of Jesus that had been placed by nuns in a newly founded convent. After a chapel was built to honour the ‘Great Lord’ in the 1920s the celebrations increased in size and began to incorporate music and dance, growing to the full-on fiesta with masked dancers and musicians that it is today.
For those in Bolivia in June there is only one place to be- in La Paz for the Festival del El Señor del Gran Poder. This celebration is the most important event in the de facto capital’s calendar, and an event as uniquely Bolivian as could be hoped for, reflecting not only the country’s Catholic and Andean heritage, but also its vibrant, exciting and diverse present. Every year the teeming indigenous market districts of the city’s north-west explode into a riot of bright colour, decoration, music and dance. With spectacular costumes, traditional dancing along the route of an unbeatable parade, and non stop parties all weekend, the religious, the traditional and the just plain fun are mixed together in an altogether irresistible event.