Although the official dates of Bolivia’s Carnaval were Monday and Tuesday (aligning with Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, which end on Fat Tuesday), the celebration continues today, at least in Cochabamba.
There is an all-day parade today, beginning just a few blocks from our house, and passing through much of the city center. Since about 10am (and probably extending well into the night) we’ve heard bands playing traditional Bolivian parade music and people shooting off noisemakers into the air. Plastic chairs three deep line the streets, placed so tight together that it’s impossible to cross the street. (The best way to get from one side of the route to another is going around either end of the parade, either by taxi or walking.) Most of the chairs have tarps set up to provide shade for the chairs, and are rented out for $3 or more, depending on the location. (More expensive seats even include access to a bathroom!)
The entire parade, all 12+ hours of it, consists of dancers in elaborate costumes, followed by a brass band. Each region of Bolivia is represented with unique dances and costumes. For example, the dancers above, Caporales, are from Cochabamba. The dances are fun to watch for a bit, but after a couple of hours the music and dances get quite repetitive…
One integral part of the carnaval festivities is the ch’alla, or blessing, of houses, businesses, vehicles, etc. A ch’alla is a ritual that involves prayers, decorations with streamers and balloons, incense thrown on a charcoal fire, large amounts of alcohol, and, not uncommonly for a business, a band.
Early in the week, two local taxi lines ch’alla‘ed their businesses, hired a band, decorated their cars, and drove around the neighborhood honking their horns: