In February, Oruro (3,706 m.a.s.l.) becomes a wild city thanks to the carnival, a party that combines dancing and faith, when thousands of pilgrims run dancing through dozens of streets and avenues, before arriving at the Sanctuary of the Virgen del Socavón. During their long trip, the groups of dancers display samples of the Bolivian folklore. Nothing will stop them, not even the persistent rain that splashes down on the highlands.
To dance with passion, with desire, a lot of joy and also with faith.
To dance for the carnival and the miraculous "Virgencita" del Socavón that defeated the devil and liberated her town from the demoniac hosts of hell. To dance one, ten, a hundred blocks... who cares about distances when it is necessary to keep on moving, jumping, making twirls, and contorting the body as if its bones were made of rubber.
To dance without stopping. To dance and to smile. To dance at day, at night, at dawn, frightening away the fatigue with smiles and graceful waist movements... and dances the devil and dance the sensual "diablitas", and dances San Miguel archangel, the black ones, the Chinese, the caporales, the shepherds of the heights and even a white bear and a condor of feeble wings that strolls among the armies of dancers.
To dance until reaching the Sanctuary of El Socavón, collecting applauses and words of encouragement; avoiding water bombs and shots of shaving cream. Characteristics of the carnival and the devotion, risks of a party of scandal and prayers... "What can we do? Sir. That is the tradition and we have to keep going, because the "Virgencita" is waiting for us. We cannot fail her."
And the musical notes explode. Confusion of melodies in the carnival happy streets.Quenas and zampoñas, drums and trumpets in Oruro. The crowded bands that accompany the dancers of radiant dresses, waste frantic and deep rhythms... and a flaccid and greasy trumpet player is left without air and he breathes with his mouth open as a fish out of the water, before the tipsy eyes of a young lady that rips the plates with fury.
And the rain starts to fall over the carnival. Nobody is surprised. Neither the devils nor their "diablitas";not even the trumpet player with his fish mouth. The umbrellas open up and the raincoats appear in the tribunes, the dancers cover their showy garments with pieces of plastic. The dance continues, the music continues, the party continues in Oruro. Now, the weeping clouds are part of the game.
And the groups of dancers begin to arrive at the Sanctuary after several hours of festival pilgrimage. When entering to the temple -built in 1781 - the devils stop dancing, make the sign of the cross, join their hands and pray. They kneel before the image of the Virgin of El Socavón, the patron of the city, the patron of the miners of the highlands.
There is plenty of colour, acrobatically incredible spins
and coquettish smiles in the Carnival of Oruro, a great variety of the Bolivian folklore, a party impregnated of traditions and wrapped in the mysterious halo of legends... because the Virgin defended the town from the armies of ants, vipers, toads and lizards, sent by Huari, an Uru -old pre-Hispanic culture- God, that for those things of the evangelization, became, suddenly, a devil.
Using her divine influences, the Virgin of El Socavón -known at that time as La Candelaria - The Virgin of the Candlemas, defeated the plagues sent by Huari. The arrays of voracious ants became grains of sand, while the vipers, toads and lizards, became stones.
Knowing that he was lost, the god that became devil looked for refuge inside the mountains full of silver, zinc, tin and antimony. He never returned, he did not wanted to face the Virgin again, and the veneration of the Virgin by the men of the mines began, they started to dress as demons to represent in a colourful dance, the eternal fight between good and evil. This way they offer cult to their patron.
After some years, the homage to the Virgin got mixed up with the pagan celebrations. This way this festival of unique singular characteristics was born, because the pilgrimage of the miners was tinted with the blinding shades of the carnival; and the carnival disguised its revel and licentiousness in robes of religiosity.
Festival in the folkloric capital of Bolivia. The people of Oruro, respect, revive and give continuity to a tradition that began in 1789, according to the novena to the Virgin of La Candelaria, written by the Father Emeterio Villaroel.
The Faith became stronger, the carnival more attractive.New dances appeared, as the Morenada that represents the illegal commercialisation of the African slaves;
the Tufas, a dance of constant and synchronized jumps that has its origins in the jungle and the Llamerada, of Aymara origin and that expresses the relationship between the man and the camelid.
Days of carnival, prayers, toasts, roar of drums, wild streets where the caporales, devils and morenos dance. Oruro dances. Bolivia dances.