Carnaval de Oruro
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The Carnival of Oruro is a religious festival dating back more than 2000 years that takes place in Oruro, Bolivia. It is one of UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Originally an indigenous festival, the celebration later was transformed to incorporate a Christian ritual around the Virgin of Candelaria (Virgin of Socavón), which takes place on February 2nd. The traditional "Llama llama" or "Diablada" became the leading traditional dance of the festival. Throughout the festival, more than 48 groups of folk dancers specializing in 18 different folk dances perform a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Tunnel every Saturday of the carnival in the traditional "Input".
Celebrated in Oruro, the folklore capital of Bolivia, the carnival marks the Ito religious festival for the indigenous Uru people. Its ceremonies stem from Andean customs, with ancient invocations centering around "Pachamama" or Mother Earth (later transformed into the Virgin Mary through Christian syncretism) and "Tio Supay" (the Uncle God of the Mountains, later transformed into the Christian devil). The native Ito ceremonies were banned by the Spanish in the 17th century, during their rule over Upper Peru. However, the Uru continued to observe the festival in the form of a Catholic ritual on Candlemas, in the first week of each February. Christian icons were used to conceal portrayals of Andean gods, and the Christian saints stood in for other minor Andean divinities. The ceremony began forty days before Easter.
Legend also has it that in 1789, a mural of the Virgin Mary miraculously appeared in a mineshaft of the richest silver mine in Oruro. Ever since, the Carnival has been observed in honour of the Virgen de la Candelaria (Virgin of the Candlemas) or Virgen del Socavon (Virgin of the Mineshaft). The most important elements of the Carnival now occur in and around the Sanctuaria del Socavon (Church of the Mineshaft).
Pre-Hispanic period 
Called Jururu (Uru Uru) in ancient times, the area that is now Oruro was a religious pilgrimage center of the Andean world. Pilgrims would trek to the "Sacred mountain of the Urus", where they could call Wakas protective deities (achachilas apus). These deities included Jampatukollo (Hill Toad), Argentillo Arankani (Hill Lizard), Quwak (Viper), the condor and Wakallusta, among others. After the Incan Empire took over the region, the Incans tried to introduce their religion by adding an evil demigod, WariDesam, and a sacred demigod, Apus waka.
Spanish colonization brought about a unique religious syncretism of Catholicism and Huari (Wari) religion. The Virgin and the Devil from Catholic teachings were absorbed into local ideas of Pachamama and Tio Supay, a blending of religious symbolism that can still be seen during the Carnival.
Modern Carnival 
The modern festival demonstrates the ongoing pagan-Catholic blend of religious practice in the region. The carnival starts with a ceremony dedicated to the Virgen del Socavon. Marching bands compete simultaneously in the grotto of Pie de Gallo on Sunday, which is the greeting to the Virgin. The highlight of the festival is the three day and three night parade of 48 groups of folk dancers over a four kilometer route to the sanctuary of the tunnel. Three days prior to this Saturday pilgrimage, people visit the symbolic pagan condor. A week after the pilgrimage, the visit the snake south of the city, the toad to the north and the ants to the east.
The pilgrimage culminates in the enactment of two medieval-style mystery plays. The first is about the Spanish conquest and the other revolves around the classical battle between good and evil, with the Archangel Michael ultimately triumphing over the Devil and the Seven Deadly Sins. The latter play was introduced by Catholic clergy in 1818.
In all, there are over 28,000 dancers, about 10,000 musicians in 150 bands, 400,000 visitors stretching over four miles
UNESCO designation 
An international jury of public figures chaired by writer Juan Goitisilo and convened by UNESCO proclaimed the Carnival one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on May 18, 2001. The proclamation was broadcast from Paris, France. Other members of the jury included the President of the Republic of Mali, Alpha Oumar Konare, the Kabaka of Uganda, His Majesty Ronald Muwenda Mutebi il, Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan, the Bolivian singer Zulma Yugar and Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes.
Dance Specialties 
Ouro's historical importance, as well as its cultural and religious influence, make its carnival a natural setting for demonstrating the multiculturalism of Bolivia and especially its variety of folk dances. The dance groups participating represent various indigenous dance styles, and are accompanied by several bands. Areas represented by the dancers include:
- The Andean region of Bolivia Altiplánico and the Yungas valleys: Groups include the Negritos, Afro-Bolivian Saya and the Caporales. This area is densely populated, including the departments of Potosí, Oruro and part of La Paz. This area is rich in folklore, with dances including the Tinku, Llamerada, kullawada, kallawaya[disambiguation needed], the Doctorcitos, Incas and Kantus.
- Valleys area: Cochabamba, Tarija and Chuquisaca, including the Potolos and Pujllay dances.
- The plains and forests: departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija and Chuquisaca featuring multi-ethnic war dances.
- All the dances share Oruro origin like the Dance of the devils or Diablada, Morenada, Antahuara, Awatiris, Suri Sicuri, Wititis, Intillajta, tarqueadas and Sampoñaris.
See also 
External references 
- Carnaval de Oruro Information about Carnival de Oruro in Bolivia, calendar and travelguide.
- Carnaval de Oruro - Dancing with the Diablada in Bolivia's Carnival
- A detailed description of the Carnival by photos and external links
- Site Web UNESCO