|God of abundance|
|Other names||Aymara: iqiqu
|Region||Andean high plateau|
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The Ekeko is the Tiwanakan god of abundance and prosperity in the mythology and folklore of the people from the Andean Altiplano. Its importance is that is the main figure of Alasitas, a cultural event that happens every January 24th in La Paz, Bolivia. The Ekeko is a traditional god of luck and prosperity, popular in Bolivia, Peru, and neighboring regions, like northern Argentina and northern Chile.
The name Ekeko comes from the alteration of the original term Ekhako or Eqaqo, popularized as Ekhekho which was the ancient god of fortune and prosperity in the Qullasuyu. The Ekhako was often invoked when a disgrace disturbed their homes.
The scholar Ernesto Cavour in his book Alasitas, makes reference to anthropomorphic and zoomorphic stone, mud and gold figures that were found in the areas belonging to the Bolivian departments of La Paz, Oruro and Potosí. Cavour considers that these figures were made using basalt—extracted from the pre-Columbian mines in the shores of the Lake Poopó—and andesite from the Copacabana peninsula.
Carlos Ponce Sanginés, for his part, focus his researches in the anthropomorphic figures with phallic elements and prominent humps which, in his opinion, go back to the Inca civilization and, according to his observations, they would correspond to the predecessors of the colonial Ekeko.
The historian Antonio Paredes Candia considers that these figures would be the remains of ancient sacred festivities during the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. Arthur Posnansky also observes that in dates near the 22 December, in the Tiwanaku culture, the population used to worship their deities to ask for good luck, offering miniatures of what they wished to have or achieve.
Origins of the Alasitas fair
Based on Posnansky's observations, the manufacture of miniatures would have its origins in the pre-Columbian era and the Alasitas fair would have its first urban expressions in the early years of the founding of La Paz, specifically, when its founders moved it from Laja in the shores of the Choqueyapu River. During that occasion, Juan Rodríguez ordered the celebration of a mass where Spanish and Indigenous people participated, the latter wanted to contribute by bringing small stone idols and miniatures exchanging them for stone coins .
During the 1781 siege of La Paz, Sebastián Segurola re-established the celebration moving it from October to 24 January, as a gesture of gratitude towards Our Lady of Peace, the holy figure for which the city of La Paz was named. The transactions were made with the same stone coins and slowly the cult to the Ekeko was reintroduced and he appeared for the first time modelled in cast.
The Ekeko is depicted as a man with a mustache wearing traditional Andean clothes (especially the poncho) and completely loaded with bags and baskets with grain and food, (compare with the cornucopia of some Greco-Roman deities), household objects, and currency bills, and basically anything that a person is thought to want or need to have a comfortable and prosperous life; he is commonly found as a little statue to be put in some place of the house, preferably a comfortable one, but also as an amulet attached to key rings; modern statues of the god include a circular opening in his mouth in which to place a cigarette for Ekeko's pleasure. Latest tradition has the Ekeko "smoke" a lit cigarette once a year to ensure a full year of prosperity.
Ekeko should be placed in a place of honor at home. Some versions can be carried in necklaces or key chains.
Ekeko brings monetary wealth to its worshippers. An offering is generally required before he provides his services. Banknotes are often clipped to the Ekeko as offerings, but some statuettes allow for a cigarette to be lighted as an offering. The figurines which allow for cigarette offerings have mouth openings large enough for cigarettes to be inserted. Ekeko additionally provides good harvests when offered grain.
The legend of the Ekeko, as narrated by Antonio Díaz Villamil, dates around 1781 in La Paz, Bolivia. At this time, the city of La Paz was under siege by indigenous people, who were still at war with Spanish forces.
The story of the origin of the Ekeko starts with Paulita Tintaya, an Indian girl who worked for Doña Josefa Ursula de Rojas Foronda, in La Paz.
The girl was in love with Isidoro Choquewanca. Years before, she had left the hacienda where they both had grown up. Before her departure, Isidoro gave her a small statue to protect her. This small statue was the Ekeko, which was known to Andean people to be a god of fortune and luck.
At the time of the siege, people were starving to death. Isidoro was enrolled in the indigenous army, and he manage to reach Paulina's house. Every week, he left her food near the statue, which was placed outside the house, but nobody knew he was doing it. Both Paulina and her boss, Doña Josefa, were able to survive the siege because of the food left near the statue by Isidoro. That is the origin of the beliefs of Ekeko's powers in providing abundance.
Ekeko as Central to the Alasitas Festival
The Alasitas festival is held for, and hosted by, the Ekeko, each January 24 and sprawls along many streets and parks in central La Paz and smaller events are held in many neighborhoods around the city. People attend the event from all over the city and even travel from other cities inside Bolivia to buy miniature versions of goods they would like to give to somebody else. These goods can be blessed by any one of the men and (less frequently) women acting as shaman. It is believed that if somebody gives you a miniature version, you will get the real object in the course of the following year. Examples of goods that can be bought are household items, food, computers, construction materials, cell phones, houses, cars, university diplomas and even figures of domestic workers, if you want to employ one the following year.
Throughout other regions the festival for the Ekeko is held in October and known by the name Calvario. This spring festival also celebrates the "'abundance'" or fecundity of humanity. Governor Segurota moved it to January in La Paz after a military victory in the 18th century.
In 2009 Bolivia asked the United Nations to recognize the Bolivian cultural roots of the Alasitas festival, celebrating the figure of the Ekeko, something Peru also claims. However, the Bolivian ambassador in Peru, Franz Solano, acknowledged that the doll was present in both countries.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ekeko.|
- Collyns, Dan (6 September 2009). "Andean row over 'good luck' doll". BBC News. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
- Cáceres Terceros, Fernando (August 2002). "Adaptación y cambio cultural en la feria de Alasitas" [Adaptation and cultural change in the Alasitas fair] (in Spanish). Buenos Aires, Argentina: Ciudad Virtual de Antropologia y Arqueologia, Equipo NAyA.
- Page 184
- Pages 183-184
- Díaz Villamil, Antonio (2000). "Leyendas de mi tierra" [Legends of my homeland] (in Spanish). La Paz, Bolivia: Ediciones Puerta del Sol.
- Estefania, Rafael. "Bolivia's popular fairs". BBC News. BBC Mundo. Retrieved 27 January 2010.
- Rojo, Hugo Boero (1977). Bolivia mágica. Editorial Los Amigos del Libro.