LA PAZ, Bolivia — Every year, thousands of Bolivians head to the two-week Alasitas festival to buy miniature cars, houses and toy dollar bills symbolizing their dreams of prosperity in one of South America’s poorest countries.
But this year, they’re not the only believers in the festival with roots in Aymara indigenous traditions.
Bolivia’s first indigenous president celebrated Wednesday the recent recognition of the pre-Columbian tradition by the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency. The ritual journeys in La Paz during Alasitas were inscribed in December by UNESCO on its representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
“Now we have the opportunity for international organizations to recognize our livelihood and our heritage,” President Evo Morales, a native Aymara, said at the opening of the fair that begins every Jan. 24.
The Aymara indigenous word “alasita” means “buy me.”
Tiny items, from kitchen appliances to college diplomas, are taken home and placed around Ekeko, the god of abundance who the Aymara people believe will bless them with better lives in the coming year.
The hopeful also buy statues of Ekeko. He is often rendered as a short, pudgy, mustached man who wears traditional Andean clothes and carries baskets of grains.
“I asked for my college degree, and I got it. You need to come with faith,” said Lucia Bustillos, a lawyer who attended the festival with her husband and purchased a house, cars and teensy wads of euros representing the couple’s wishes for the new year.