Carnaval Highlights From Oruro, Bolivia

by Hal Amen Feb 25, 2009
Per South American tradition, Carnaval festivities are held in every major Bolivian city. Yet, it’s the fabled revelry of Oruro—a town in the Altiplano largely overlooked the other 50 weeks of the year—that draws crowds from throughout the country and beyond.

The main attraction is a 20-hour nonstop dancing parade accompanied by marching bands. Thirty-five thousand or so performers trace a 4km route through the city, which is lined with bleachers to accommodate the estimated half million spectators.

Each group performs its take on one of Bolivia’s traditional dance styles, with troupes from all across the country participating. Unique dress and costumes help distinguish the regional and stylistic affiliations of the different performers.

Of course, it’s not all about sitting and watching the dancers go by. Bolivian Carnaval is defined by intense water balloon wars and attacks utilizing other types of (relatively) harmless weapons, such as spray cans full of foam. Prepare to get dirty… very, very dirty.

There’s no shortage of variety in the costumes donned by performers, from the colorful and quaint…

…to the downright bizarre.

The energy only ratchets up with the setting of the sun. Festivities continue through the night until the sun rises once again on the wild, messy, frenetic streets of Oruro, Bolivia.

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Check out our other Carnaval reports from 09, including Barranquilla, Colombia.

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