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    Land of winds > Traditions > Festival | Issue 09 (Mar.-Apr. 2012)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

San Pedro de Achacachi: danzantes and pacochis


San Pedro de Achacachi: danzantes and pacochis

San Pedro festivities (29th of June) are spread along the Andes. The celebration held in the town of Achacachi (province of Omasuyos, department of La Paz), though far from being among the most important in the high plateau region of Bolivia, is of interest in its own right because two Aymara traditional dances are gathered here: the danzantes or danzanti and the pacochis or p'aquchi.

San Pedro is worshipped by the communities close to Achacachi, among which there are Q'asamaya and Pungunuyu. On the festival day, their inhabitants set off for the town to pay homage to the Patron Saint through music and dancing: Q'asamaya presents its pacochis, while Pungunuyu does alike with the danzantes.

The festival was first celebrated after the Chaco War (1932-1935, fought between Bolivia and Paraguay over control of northern part of the Gran Chaco region). Its funding model is known as "prestazgo", the "preste" being the one who meets the costs of the celebrations through a network of favours, gifts and benefits that, in turn, have to be returned by beneficiaries.

On the festival day, after the mass is over, the Q'asamaya pacochis and the Pungunuyu danzantes carry the statue of the Saint through the streets to the main square of Achacachi. Here ones and the others dance in front of the Saint in his honour. And before going back to their communities they eat and drink together.

The pachochis dance (from Aymara p'aquchi, "fair-haired man") is a satire of the Spaniards at the Conquest time. Dancers are disguised as conquerors with rosy cheeks masks, blond wigs, wooden swords and jingle bells ankle bracelets. They dance to the music of a pinkillo with three finger-holes (called the pinkillo de los pacochis) and a caja played by the same musician, accompanied by another one beating a bombo wank'ara. For their part, the danzante or danzanti is a dance featuring five characters: the jach'a tata danzanti or wiracocha, two "diablicos" (or achal kuchis) and two musicians. It is perhaps one of the most interesting in the region for its antiquity and the myths woven around it.

The jach'a tata danzanti or jach'a tata thoqori (in Aymara, "great father/great lord dancer") is the dance’s main character. In the old days, he used to wear a huge mask, which, according to some statements, weighed over four hundredweight. It was said that this dancer was doomed to suffer death for the weight that lay heavy upon him. Therefore the most likely candidates for the role were thought to be young and strong men, to whom gifts (virgin maids, coca leaves, and alcohol) were made before the festival started.

The myth of the danzanti’s death appeared in the film "La nación clandestina" (1989) directed by Bolivian filmmaker Eduardo Sanjinés. Nowadasy, both this character and the "diablicos" that accompany him still wear some traditional clothing, though it is a shadow of its former self.

The two musicians, called awilas, blow a special pinkillo, rarely described, known as "pinkillo Camata" (after the high plateau village where it is said to have its roots). It is a flute over half a metre long, with two fingerholes. It is accompanied by a bombo (drum, 60 cm in diameter and 30 cm high) provided with a "charlera", "corchea" or "jevisa" (a single set of snares) , which is beaten with a drumstick or jauk'aña.

The danzante is also executed at the Corpus Christ festival in other localities in the provinces of Aroma and Omasuyos (department of La Paz), however, like many other Aymara dances, it is becoming a dying tradition.


Article. “La festividad de San Pedro de Achacachi”, by Fernando Zelada Bilbao [es].
Article. "Fiesta en Achacachi: cuando los llorones danzan", by Tanya Imaña Serrano [es].
Article. "El danzante: una expresión sociocultural", by Pedro Velasco Rojas and Judith López Uruchi [es].
Article. "Danza pacochis de Achacachi" [es].


Video 01. Danzante at Festival Compi Tauca 2008.
Video 02. Jach'a tata danzanti from the film "La Nación Clandestina".


Picture A.


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