Bolivian Miners’ Carnival Honors Andean Gods

By Dialogo
February 26, 2009

Confetti, 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.‎