11 Dec, 2019 | Silvia Saccardi
Offerings to the ñatita include candles and cigarettes and they are often adorned with floral crowns.
Photos: Silvia Saccardi
The festival of 'Las Ñatitas' is a tradition celebrated throughout the Bolivian Andes on the 8th November every year. The word ñatita loosely translates to 'little nosed' and refers to the skulls that are the protagonists of this celebration: in La Paz's general cemetery, skulls are dug up from communal burial grounds that will later be given a new home. These skulls are lovingly decorated and adorned with offerings such as cigarettes, alcohol, coca leaves, flowers, candles and other gifts to commemorate the life of the family member that the skull represents. Every year, families flock to cemeteries with their skulls to sit around it and pray. The ritual of giving gifts to the skull is said to bring good luck and happiness. It is assumed that the festival dates back to the ancient empire of Tiwanaku, when skulls were preserved to call for rain in times of drought. To this day, people are proud of the skulls that they decorate.
Praying to the ñatita is said to bring good luck.
The festival is a day of celebration where cemeteries are lit up by the colourful adornments.
The celebration is both solemn and festive.