All About the Alasitas Fair in La Paz, Bolivia
La Feria de las Alasitas (Alasitas’ Fair) is a regional fair that Bolivians, Peruvians, and even Argentines celebrate!
What is Alasitas? Alasitas is a word that comes from the Aymara language and it means “buy” or “buy me.” This is a traditional fair that celebrates abundance. More than that, however, it is a UNESCO immaterial world heritage and it has been since 2017.
Bolivians dedicate this festival to the Aymara god of abundance, Ekeko. It is a one-month festival with more than 5,000 artisans who sell miniature things. Like every nice fair, in the Alasitas fair, you can find a ton of Bolivian food like the amazing salteñas, choclo con queso (corn with cheese) or el plato paceño (the La Paz plate.) You can also find several games and things to do around.
One important thing to mention is that Bolivians celebrate the Alasitas festival on different dates in different cities. However, the Alasitas fair in La Paz, Bolivia is on January 24.
If you want to learn more about the Alasitas fair in Bolivia, get comfortable, and get ready to scroll down.
FUN FACT: Bolivia has two capitals. The president and the other State powers have the headquarters in this city, but the constitutional capital of Bolivia is Sucre.
Las Alasitas Fair in La Paz
Bolivians set everything up for Las Alasitas fair in el parque urbano central (PUC) de La Paz (La Paz’s urban central park)—a natural protected area within La Paz made up of 23 different areas (which are worth exploring). Bolivians set this up in the area of El campo ferial del Bicentenario (something like the Bicentennial fairfield).
At midday on January 24, Bolivians kickstart their one-month celebration. Thousands of artisans—who have been crafting miniatures for months prior to the Alasitas fair—can finally start celebrating and selling their crafts to people who wish to be prosperous during the coming year!
You can find an abundance of different miniature things, with different symbolic meanings in this fair like:
|boliviano bills||los billetes de boliviano|
|building materials||los materiales de construcción|
|cars||los carros, coches, autos, automóviles|
|college degrees||los títulos universitarios|
|dollar bills||los billetes de dólar|
|euro bills||los billetes de euro|
|houses||las casas, las viviendas|
|property titles||los títulos de propiedad|
|suitcases||las maletas, las valijas|
Symbolism Behind the Miniatures
Why do you find miniatures in the Alasitas festival? An unofficial answer is: because Ekeko, the aymara deity, had a kind of a “mortal life” once, and he is the one who was carrying wishes and things. Therefore, to lighten his burden and to give him more space, aymaras and Bolivians started crafting miniatures.
Bolivians and tourists buy these miniatures in the Alasitas festival because they want to attract things to their life in the coming year. Some of these represent obvious things. For example, boliviano, dollar or euro bills symbolize money, so whoever buys these little bills is expecting to either make money or at least not have economical problems. However, some people buy these bills and give them away to people passing by. These people are hoping to pay off their debts.
Those who buy cars, houses, property titles or business are hoping to get either or all of them in the coming year. Some people even buy mini títulos universitarios (mini college degrees) so they can graduate college in the next year.
A suitcase represents a trip. People who buy miniature suitcases want to travel!
Animals have symbols too. For example, people who buy an owl are hoping and asking la pachamama (mother earth) or Ekeko to have wisdom. Those who buy toads are hoping to get some luck.
Finally, those who buy roosters and hens usually give them away. If someone gives you a rooster or a hen, it means that they want you to get a romantic partner. If you receive a baby, it means that this person wishes you to have kids.
FUN FACT: Bolivians would give chickens and roosters away to their ex president, Evo Morales, since it is said he remains single.
The Blessing Ritual in the Alasitas Festival
After buying all your miniatures there is one more step to take if you want those wishes to really come true. A yatiri—an aymara healer, has to bless your miniatures throughout a ritual, which Bolivians call, ch’alla, in which he pours un líquido (a liquid), pétalos de flores (flower petals), adornos coloridos (colorful ornaments), un sahumerio (a thurible), and a series of oraciones (prayers) which mix pre Columbian and Catholic traditions.
Once they have been blessed, according to the folkloric belief, your wishes will come true.
Food in Las Alasitas Fair
In Las Alasitas festival you can find many other things besides the places which sell miniatures and yatiris blessing them. You can walk, among many Bolivians, with the smell of choclo (corn), papa (potato), and many other foods flooding your nose.
Walkthrough the park and get yourself a good old choclo con queso—a delicious corn cob— with queso andino (Andean cheese) on the side, simple and great.
You can also buy a nice plato paceño—a Bolivian dish with queso frito (fried cheese), choclo o maíz (corn), papa (potato), habas (broad bean), and llajua.
If you prefer a more meaty food in this Bolivian festival you can get fritanga—a Bolivian dish with fried pork, garlic, corn, potatoes, and more!
Another good alternative is el conejo estirado (stretched rabbit), la trucha (trout) or a very interesting sajta—a chicken dish with garlic, chuño (dried potatoes), and peanuts. If you are feeling daring give anticuchos a try. Anticuchos are a Bolivian dish with beef heart, potatoes and ají de maní (peanut chilli.)
If, on the other hand, you prefer to eat something not as exotic, you can always find places that sell fried chicken, chorizo and pork chops.
Games in Las Alasitas Fair
Just like any great Latin American festival, Las Alasitas fair does not fail in delivering great games for its visitors.
The most iconic “game” or tradition in Las Alasitas is tener un casamientito (getting married) or tener un divorcito (getting divorced). Now, don’t get me wrong, these are not real ceremonies, but they are associated with the miniatures. You can get a fake certificate and get married to a friend or even your partner for an evening, and once you get bored of each other, you can get divorced in Las Alasitas.
You can find the classic fair games, just like the one in which they give you a toy shotgun or something to throw at bottles and once you knock them you earn a plush toy.
There are spots in which you can find futbolitos, futbolines o metegol (foosballs) and some pool tables, in case the fair isn’t entertaining enough already.
Facts About La Paz
Now that we have dove down in the Alasitas fair, let’s check out where La Paz is in Bolivia.
Bolivians divide their territory in 9 departments, 112 provinces, and 342 municipalities. The city of La Paz is in the Pedro Domingo Murillo province and in the La Paz municipality.
This 473-year-old city is the third most populated in Bolivia and it has around 765,000 inhabitants. It is home to el aeropuerto internacional El Alto (El Alto international airport)—the highest airport in the world at 13,323 ft (4,061 m) above sea level—where you will land when you visit Bolivia.
Thanks to its altitude, the weather in La Paz is quite cold. Thankfully, January is summer in South America. The average maximum temperature in La Paz in January is 58°F (14°C) whilst the average minimum temperature is 40°F (4,4°C). In the winter (between June and August) the average minimum temperature is around 25°F (-4°C)!
FUN FACT: La Paz is the 3rd highest city in Bolivia and the 5th highest in the world, at 11,975 ft (3,650 m) above sea level.
Learn Spanish to Visit Bolivia!
The Alasitas festival definitely earned its place as an UNESCO immaterial world heritage. But there are more things to do while visiting La Paz, such as shopping in el mercado de las brujas (the witches’ market)!
Bolivia has more things to offer outside of La Paz, like el parque nacional Madidi (Madidi national park)—a protected area of around 7,000 square miles, with more than 8,500 species of wildlife—and the amazing salar de Uyuni (Uyuni salt flats), which are the largest salt flats in the world. Bolivia is also home to the widely famous lago Tititcaca (Lake Titicaca)—the largest lake in South America—with over 699 mi (1,125 km) in diameter!
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FUN FACT: Bolivia is the only Latin American flag that stands much more than the others. This is because, the Bolivian flag has a traditional African color pattern, using yellow, red, and green, instead of white, blue and red, present in many other Latin American flags.
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