Tuesday, February 24, 2009
So carnival is definitely not exclusive to Oruro, it´s fiesta time all over Bolivia right now... or perhaps the celebration is just following Erin and I? On Sunday La Paz was buzzing with the carnival fever; the streets were swarming with people in costumes and, of course, more spray foam, water guns, and waterballoons. However, besides Oruro, the typical carnivals here are a little, well... messier. According to the owner of our hotel, the La Paz celebration is "more about the water and foam assaults... just a bunch of people acting crazy." With our hotel conveniently located on the main street where the parade came through, we chose to watch the action above from the safety of our balcony... until our caucasion-ness, and likely my red hair, got us noticed and waterballoons came bombing toward us. (The view from our balcony) But we didn`t need carnival, we had something more interesting on the agenda on this particular day...
Every Sunday evening, something very unique happens in La Paz; it`s called "Cholitas Wrestling"... For those of you unfamiliar with this entertainment marvel, picture a fake WWF wrestling show with local Bolivians - men in hilarious costumes, women in traditional Bolivian clothing, amd midgets - all fighting each other. However in a smaller venue with a fraction of the budget, but ten times more ridiculousness. Erin and I were lucky enough to experience this special event.
We were picked up by the gringo tour bus in the late afternoon and drove up and just outside of the city. (We stopped at a lookout point to take some pictures of La Paz, which is actually a wicked looking city. It`s beautifully situated in the valley of these huge, rugged mountains and the brick houses and buildings climb all the way up the sides.) (Some local performers outside the wrestling gym)
Back to the action: Us tourists were provided with "VIP" ringside seats; I`m still trying to figure out whether this was a good thing or not. In keeping with the carnival spirit, there was no shortage of spray foam and water guns. The audience continued to drench the wrestlers, and when the wrestlers got their hands on the spray canisters, they got their revenge. White chemical foam ensued. (Gringos are prime foam targets - in the splash zone again!)
We were graced with a variety of characters and matches - singles and doubles, free-for-alls, and often the referee joined in. Some of the "fighters" were actually quite talented, but with a limited budget and safety resources, I`m pretty sure some of the men actually got hurt when they fell out of the ring onto the concrete... But they were troopers. (Spiderman and his little partner, what a team) (Bring it on!) (I`m pretty confident that the pink spandex enabled his victory) (Over the railing and into the arms of spray-happy gringos) (This woman kicked ass) (Nice shot) (The ref about to get thrown over the railing into the crowd)
I think one of the wrestlers, masculinely complete with a bird-beak mask, took an interest in Erin and I. After continually pointing at us, he was conveniently thrown out of the ring and over the baracade railing into our row. He landed in Erin`s lap, knocking her backwards (don`t worry, there were people behind to catch her), and he landed on the floor at my feet... at which point he felt it was appropriate to wrap his arms around my leg and rub his face against my ancle. I`m not sure how we got from point A to B, but later he stopped fighting briefly and kissed me, with foam on his face... mmm. (The evening view of La Paz on the way back into town)
There was nothing else La Paz could possibly offer that would top the wrestling experience, so we took off the next day. We headed for the town of Copacabana on Lake Titicaca (where we are now). (Our bus testing the limits of the connecting ferry) (Check out the camoflauged army dudes, bottom left)
In Copacabana, we decided to treat ourselves to one of the swankiest hostals in town (well, by our travel standards), called La Cupula. It`s a beautiful place that overlooks the lake and we have pretty suite with our own kitchen. And the restaurant has chocolate fondue. (The town of Copacabana) (View from our hostal) (Cooking in our kitchen... what`s for dinner? Beans)
Sunday, February 22, 2009
In what I would consider a clutch GTD (Game Time Decision) at about midnight the night before leaving at 3am, Alyece and I decided to take a day trip to the Carnival in Oruro! (True Alyece and Erin Form!!) The whole thing was totally amazing but I´ll let Alyece give you the details of the celebration.
Oruro, one of Bolivia´s bigger towns, annually hosts the country´s most important and massive carnival. It started here in the 1700´s when a local thief was apprehended for stealing, and just before he was hanged, confessed that he had hid all the stolen items in a cave. When the people discovered the loot, they saw the image of the Candelaria Virgin, and miners began dressing as devils and dancing. This led to the annual celebration of dancers from various minority groups in the area: The Diablada (dance of the devils - formed by the butcher´s group, the Morenada (dance of the black people, or slaves - formed by the Coca leaf sellers), and the Incas (formed by the candle makers). Over the years the Oruro carnival grew in size and importance, it was declared a Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2001, and has now become one of the greatest carnivals in South America. In the past several decades, more minority groups have joined and thousands of people take part in the extensive parade of music and dance. The people march and dance for 30 city blocks (3km) and continue for 16 hours!
Erin and I were lucky to get the chance to see the festivities and feel the vibrant energy of the town. The stands were packed and the side streets were swarming with party-ers. The majority of the crowd was wearing ponchos or holding umbrellas, and not because it was raining (it was a beautiful day), but because carnival involves the excessive bombardment of water balloons and spray foam! The costumes were so bright and elaborate, the dancing was captivating and energetic, and the music had us moving and shaking. What a wicked day!
IMAGES FROM CARNIVAL!
(My fav pic of the day - courtesy of Alyece)(Very handsome and very good dancing boys...taking a well deserved break)(Alyece and My´s Canada Day costumes for next year)
(Locked and Loaded - Squirt Guns, Water Balloons and Foam Spray definitely in excess during Carnival)(The Carnival Beauty Queens)(Maybe these shoes should be the new style?)(These young boys were one of our favorite acts of Carnival, super talented, full of energy and Lovin´ it)(Totally Adorable! Too hot and too heavy, Dad carries the little girl´s head piece)(This little guy was WAY too cute)(In the splash zone, but dry and warm....One of us would stay that way)(Talked into some innocent fun?) (Trying to defend myself against the entire grandstand)(Defeated and Stunned...I guess the ¨Avoid contact with eyes¨ warning would be ignored during Carnival )(Bloodshot eyes are sexy) (One of the MANY culprits)(poor little niño....long long day for the kids)(I guess there was an upside to getting lost, without Alyece, in the craziness of Carnival...got some great up close shots)(The Lone Ranger leading the marching band...totally adorable and full of charisma too!)(.....And what Carnival would be complete without a giant Armadillo?)