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Cochabamba is in the middle of the annual end-of-winter festival in the honor the Virgin of Urkupiña. It’s a huge festival involving folkloric dances, an all-night caminata (walk) and a collection of rocks.

August 14 is the entrada, an all-day parade of traditional dancers through the streets of the near-by city of Quillacollo. There are literally thousands of dancers in a full range of costumes.

Here are some videos (not mine!) showing some of the range of dancers. These are tinku — which is a dance representing a ritualized fight:

These are corporales (the word has the same root as the English word “corporal” in it’s meaning of “overseer”). The dance represents the Spanish overseers. The male dancers carry a whip in their hands:

During the night of August 15 about half of the people in Cochabamba take off for an all-night walk to Quillacollo (about 15 km). They arrive on the morning of the 16th for a Mass in the plaza and then head up into the hills behind the town.

Here’s a video (again, not mine!) showing a Mass in the hills and the massive number of people there:

At the sanctuary of the Virgen de Urkupiña, they follow a complicated ritual of blessing the hill with water, knocking off rock chips with a sledge hammer, again blessing the hill with beer, placing the rock chips in a bag with a small house (or small car or diploma or monopoly money or whatever one desires), throwing in firecrackers and waving incense over the bag. The bag is then taken home where one keeps it for three years. After this, they think, they will receive whatever it is they want from the Virgin.

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