Bolivian Miners’ Carnival Honors Andean Gods
By Dialogo February 26, 2009Confetti, musicians and thousands of indigenous dancers crowded the cobblestone streets of this remote silver and tin mining town to honor its Andean gods and celebrate Carnival, which ended Tuesday. An Aymara shaman sacrificed a snow-white llama at dawn on Friday, carrying its bleeding heart into the mines to bring good fortune and protect miners through the coming year. Coca-leaf-chewing miners surrounded a statue of the devil spirit that, according to legend, reigns over the caves, and groups of ornately dressed devil-dancers whirled toward the town's cathedral where they sought forgiveness from the indigenous goddess that is Oruro's patron saint. Their dance, known as the "Diablada," enacts a battle between good and evil in Bolivia's silver mines, where millions of indigenous miners have died amid squalid conditions. Bolivia is one of South America's most culturally diverse nations, with dozens of different indigenous groups reaching from the Andes to the Amazonian lowlands. At Carnival, they unite to celebrate their mythology and revive traditions often set largely aside after Spain's conquest. UNESCO proclaimed the Oruro carnival one of the world's "masterpieces" of cultural heritage in 2002 and vowed to help preserve it.