A Little Luck Goes a Long Way

23 Feb, 2018 | Georgina Bolam

Culture

Ekeko Lends a Hand

Photos: Georgina Bolam


Each year on 24 January, the people of La Paz head to the Parque Urbano and its surrounding plazas and fill their bags with miniature cars, houses, computers, roosters (we will come back to this one), airline tickets and even marriage certificates. Taking place just before Carnival, the Alasitas festival is a month-long affair, when locals purchase miniature items to give to Ekeko, the Aymara god of abundance, in the hope that he will bring fortune and happiness to their lives. But what are the stories behind the festival, and what do these these miniature items represent to the people of Bolivia?

    Ekeko: This is the god of abundance and prosperity in the mythology and folklore of the Aymara people of the altiplano. But even though Ekeko is the traditional god of luck, he must continually be given gifts throughout the year to keep his good fortune alive. To do this, he must be given (lit) cigarettes and alcohol every week, and lots of miniature bits and bobs. According to vendors we spoke to, purchases of Ekeko figurines have decreased in recent years – perhaps because people do not want to be burdened with the effort of replenishing him so frequently, or maybe they just don’t like the smell of tobacco in their house.


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    Ekeko must be given (lit) cigarettes and alcohol every week.



    The frog: Unlike the Ekeko, the frog doesn’t need alcohol or nicotine to stabilise its fortune – it accumulates it all on its own (clever, right?). Keep a frog in your house and be blessed with good luck for all of your mortal life.


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    The gallo: Well, well, well… Still haven't found your husband or wife to be? Are you still meandering the streets hoping to find your princess or prince charming? Perhaps you are wondering the supermarkets in the hope that your hands will touch over the last tin of soup and it will be love at first sight? Well, look no further… Buy a hen or rooster figurine (depending on preference) and you are sure to find your true love this year. If you are picky by nature, perhaps you want one with a specific job title – a psychologist? A chef? Or, if you are feeling dangerous, maybe even a soldier? Don’t worry, you don’t need to thank me.


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    Stacks of money: Yes, you read that right. The lottery can be very hit and miss, so here is the next best thing. Just buy some stacks of money at the miniature central bank of Bolivia. This woman will kindly lead you to your correct currency – euros? Dollars? Bolivianos? She has it.



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    Babies: Feeling broody? They have a variety of babies at the Alasitas. Buy the life-size cot, pram and formula and a real human will come in time.



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    Miniature tools: Ever needed a mini hammer, shovel or pliers? The mini pliers came in particularly handy when fixing a necklace of mine. They can be very easy to lose, though, so look after them wisely.


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