One month per year, all sorts of miniature objects are sold in La Paz, Bolivia, in a market called Alasitas. Do you want to know the reason and the story behind?
The tradition of Alasitas comes from the pre-Columbian period. From what is known, people from the Aymara culture used to hold an event, destined to pray for good luck and ask for things they wished, by offering miniature objects. This event used to be - and still is - celebrated in honor of Ekeko, a sort of deity, who represents wealth and abundance.
Nowadays, every year Alasitas starts on January 24th and lasts for one month. Of course, the tradition did evolve over time and did get influenced by the Spanish colonizers, and the Catholic Church, during the colonial period. Of course, it now boasts an influence by the globalized world too.
We can infer that, during the pre-colonial time, probably the main wish was to have a good harvest, and the miniature objects were related to that. But, currently, all kinds of miniature objects, everything you can imagine is sold right in this market! It depends on what people aim and wish to get the following year. Miniature size money is one of the most sought items - they can be found in the form of miniature bolivianos, euros, or dollars. As some locals joke: "Bolivia is the only country where people spend real money to buy fake ones." Other objects people buy can be as essential as miniature food products, or be more demanding as tiny smartphones, computers, suitcases (for traveling), cars, houses, and even university titles or wedding cakes!
The believers make an Aymara Shaman bless their products. And, as it was mentioned, the Catholic Church did join this tradition, so the event is blessed by a priest in San Francisco Cathedral of La Paz the day it starts. The products people buy can also be blessed with holy water.
Ekeko is currently represented by a small statue of a man carrying all kinds of products. Following Aymara's beliefs, it should remain in an outstanding place in the house. He carries the desired goods for the year, so he is generally grabbing a lot of stuff. That is why the phrase "you look like an Ekeko" is used in the region when people see someone who is carrying a lot of things.
If you get hungry in Alasitas, you will find food that, of course, has a miniature size. Bread, cheese, pizza, burgers, and cute small bakery products are sold per dozen since only one would be impossible to please your appetite.
If you are a bonsai fan, you will like this section of the Alasitas. Lots of stores are dedicated to ornamental plants. Average size ones are sold too, but for sure, you will get most charmed by the miniature plants, including adorable tiny natural flower bouquets.
For some people, Alasitas is a serious event, since they believe it defines everyone's material wealth until next year. Other people join it just for fun, to find miniature novelties. As would be expected, kids enjoy it a lot, since they can find all kinds of toy-sized objects. For tourists, it is an interesting tradition to experience: it is fascinating to observe how a tradition that goes back to pre-Columbian times has enormously evolved over time, to be fully integrated into our globalized world nowadays.
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