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Carnival en OruroCarnival started Saturday here in Bolivia with the parade, dancing and festivities in Oruro. It will build — Monday and Tuesday being holidays — before ending on Ash Wednesday.

In Bolivia, water is the most important element of carnival (along with the beer and being completely intoxicated). Kids throw water baloons at cars or squirt super soakers at one another. Teenage boys chase teenage girls with water baloons (leading one to think that the only thing worse for a youngster than being chased with a water baloon is to not be chased with a water baloon).

At the parades in the major cites, things go from being playful to being an explosion of water, foam shot from cans, and paint and dye.

In Cochabamba people wear rain coats when going out to avoid being soaked. Here in Santa Cruz, they have special coverings, worn over their normal clothes, to avoid having clothes become stained by the dyes. As with teenage girls, one gets the impression that to have been stained different colors from various water baloons and water pistols just shows how popular one is. Being stained can be a bother, but is better than not being stained at all.