All Saints Festival in Aiquile
At the beginning of November, the village of Aiquile (province of Campero, department of Cochabamba, Bolivia) holds a number of very interesting celebrations. Aiquile is known by being the home of a variant of charango ("charango aiquileño"), which has won fame in Bolivia. Taking advantage of the fact that the village receives a lot of visitors during the celebration of All Saints (1st of November), in 1984 the group Jark'iris (in Aymara, "carers, watchers") got the support and official endorsement to organize the first Feria y Festival Internacional del Charango (International Charango Fair and Festival). The event has continued to flourish while, at the same time, has become a fantastic platform bringing together the country's best charango players and admiring luthiers' work. The festival aims to promote the knowledge, making and playing of the Andean chordophone.
According to tradition, the souls of the dead are given permission by God to visit their homes and families on All Saints Day. It is said that they arrive at midday and that their arrival is announced by a light breeze. The souls can spend a whole day "among the living" and must leave at midday on the following day. Some people claim that during this short period food is tasteless and colours dull.
To welcome the souls, each family prepares a "grave", a small altar carefully and neatly tended where on are offerings (food, drinks, sweets and even the cigarettes the dead liked). In addition, a special meal is served for people coming over for a visit to join the family in praying for the eternal repose of the souls.
This ritual acquires a central importance when the dead are children or when one year has passed since the death of the person is being honoured. In the latter case, the ceremony is usually known as k'anchaku (from Quechua k'anchay, "to illuminate, to light up").
In the days preceding the celebration, the graves are adorned with flowers (real, paper and plastic), prayers are asked for, and different local traditional meals and drinks are elaborated in advance such as uchuku (typical dish including potatoes, rice, chili, chuño, beef tongue, duck and chicken), chicken soup, potatoes and rice cake, chillijchi or fried seibo flowers, chicha with peanut (beer made of quinua and aromatized with grind peanut) and "masitas" or pastries. Visitors were traditionally offered a wich'isito (small clay plate) with uchuku, a kero (clay vessel) with chicha and a bag with "masitas".
Some families establish the altars on the graves of the deceased instead of keeping them in the family's home. There they make offerings, pray and celebrate with relatives and friends.
On All Saints Day families abandon mourning dress: they walk in procession to a certain place where they throw their dark clothes on the ground, stamp on them and set them on fire. Also, on this day godfathers and godmothers are chosen; families send the candidates some human-shaped cookies called t'antawawa (in Quechua, "child of bread").
At midday on the 2nd of November the kacharpaya or farewell is celebrated, singing and dancing to music of local huaynos. Sometimes, however, the festival does not end there and goes on during the mast'aku (from Quechua mast'ay, to "extend"), an extension that will fade away as days go by.
Starting on the 4th of November and for a whole week, Aiquile holds the celebration of the kjochis, a tradition that deepens its roots in the old rituals performed at the beginning of the sowing season. During the festival the popular macapaqueña is danced to the music of charangos, guitars and accordions, and there is also a huaynos and tonadas competition that brings together musicians from across the country. Besides music and dancing, many participants play wayllunk'as games, with swings hanging from very high trees.
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