South America Living

La Feria De Alasitas: La Paz, Bolivia

Ekeko: The Demanding God

One of Bolivia’s most unusual fiestas is the Feria de Alasitas, held in La Paz in the last week of January, when large areas of the city are taken over by market stalls selling all sorts of miniature items. At the core of the festivities is a diminutive figure of a mustachioed man with rosy cheeks and a broad smile, dressed in a tiny suit and hat and laden with foods and material possessions. This is the Ekeko, the household god of abundance. A common sight in Paceño homes, the Ekeko is a demanding god who must be kept happy with regular supplies of alcohol, cigarettes and miniature gifts. In return, he watches over the household, ensuring happiness and prosperity and returning in kind any gift he receives. At the fair each year, people buy objects they desire in miniature to give to the Ekeko, thereby ensuring that the real thing will be theirs before the year is out. Originally, gifts to the Ekeko would have been farm animals and foods, but in the modern urban context of La Paz, miniature cars, houses, electrical goods, wads of dollar bills and even airline tickets and university degrees are preferred to more traditional items.

So — get your Ekeko ready, and give him the gifts you wish to receive. January 24 is the big day.

[Bolivia 2016]

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