Chutillos Festival

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
Trip End Feb 01, 2005

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Although every day in Bolivia has a fiesta, Ch`utillos in Potosė is one of the biggest and most colourful, and I was lucky enough to get to take part in the fiesta.

Warming Up For Ch`utillos
The Tuesday before Ch`utillos weekend is the Fiesta of San Bartoleme. All the locals go to a place called La Puerta and put rocks for their sins under one of 12 crosses. When you have a rock under all 12 crosses you are forgiven. Anyways, it is basically another excuse for the locals to get rolling drunk again.

As I had to work, I stayed in the office, missing out on thousands of people, drinking, urinating and spitting in the cold weather down at La Puerta. Pedro and all the other guides went down there and somehow Pedro managed to spy the bus driver wearing his gloves that he had left on the bus the night before, although it took him a lot of convincing to get them back.

Meanwhile, I was in the office meeting some friends of Pedro Blanco. They were dressed in traditional Quechua attire with a piece of cloth to carry things, a beanie standing straight up and shoes made out of car tyres. We decided that Esteban was going to be my new boyfriend. When they left, I kissed them each on the cheek and they both yipped out of the office and down the street with glee!

My Boyfriend is a LIAR!
Earlier in the week it had come out (from Pedro`s step brother) that he was only 22, after having told me that my guess of 28 was correct. Anyway, I asked him specifically how old he was and he insisted on being 28. He then listed off about a dozen incorrect years to be born to be 28. In the end, one of the other guys backed up his story so despite my doubts I believed him.

Two days passed and we were sitting in the plaza and I asked him how old he really was. He told me that he was born in 1982 and that he had lied because he wanted me to think that he was older than me. I don`t know why I didn`t get the truth out of him sooner as all the things he said hadn`t added up, like how he had done his army service at 17 and then referred to it being 5 years ago and other things too. I just hope that he hasn`t lied about anything else.

Ch`utillos Saturday
I wasn`t going to dance in the fiesta, but managed to get talked into it when I went to the rehearsals. There were 9 gringos joining in on the dance with the locals. For 40bs we were given our costume which (for the girls) was a black dress with long sleeves (although my sleeves only came to my forearms) a waist sash and a white bowler hat. On the Saturday morning, Pedro and I went to the market where I bought some kneehigh socks that the Quechuan women wear and then we bought some decorations for my costume. All the women wear ribbons dangling from their hat, pretty much obscuring their faces, so we got some to put on my hat (although I was way outdone by all the locals who had at least 100 ribbons from their hats). We also bought some yellow tassels to tie from my plaits. Pedro then plaited my hair for me, put in my tassels and hung my ribbons from my hat. The verdict from all the girls and Doņa Donata upstairs was one of approval.

We then all walked down to where the parade was starting. It was chaos with all the groups pushing and shoving to be next to set off. We found the rest of our group and joined the swarm. We left the starting point at about 3pm and started dancing down the street. I had no idea what the others were singing so I just kinda mouthed some sounds. We got lots of attention for being gringos and many locals came out to offer us beer or shouted for us to dance for them. The dancing mostly involved a lot of stomping, some twirling and a bit of sashaying. The men danced in a separate line to the girls and the musicians were in the middle.

I couldn`t believe how many people wanted to interview us for TV, radio and newspaper and had lots of people ask where we were from. I had one little starring moment where I was filmed doing my little stomping dance with my walking shoes on (not delicate sandals like the other women) for a live broadcast to the rest of Potosė. We also had lots of people come up to have their picture taken with us. It was almost as if they had never seen a gringo before. The guys organising the group went around grabbing men and women from the crowd to dance with us, and at one point, I picked up a little girl who wouldn`t let me out of her sight and I had to do a sneaky thing to shake her off.

It got dark and colder and we still weren`t at the finish, and we were stopping to pause more and more. In the end we finished the circuit at 8:40pm, almost 6 hours of stomping my feet over 8km.

Ch`utillos Sunday
Thankfully my feet held up (thankyou my wonderful walking shoes) and the next day I went with Pedro and Daniel to see the second day of parades. Unlike the Saturday which was just local dancers, Sunday had dancers from other South American countries and other Bolivian towns.

The costumes were fantastic and I`ve discovered that there are different national dances which have different costumes. There are ones with lots of bells on their boots who do big leaps, others with leather chaps and red helmet like hats, a dance with devils, maidens picking grapes, people wearing big platform shoes with spurs like symbols and many others. It was quite cold in the wind, and towards dark I started to feel very sorry for the girls wearing tutu like dresses and high heels, they were going to freeze by the end. The dancing continued until 5am in the morning, but I wasn`t able to keep myself out in the cold for that long.

Things I`ve Learned
* Gringos joining in the fiestas are welcomed and cheered
* Bolivians are liars
* Bolivians like to dance
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