Today we had breakfast at the hotel with several of the newly arrived group members before continuing to our last day of Spanish classes. While we headed to the Instituto Exclusivo the new arrivals began the process of acclimating to the altitude. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the streets were full of people.
For our final day of classes we each took an exam to access the progress we have made in our week long stay before walking to El Prado to watch a parade of traditional dances performed by high school students in anticipation of Gran Poder. Gran Poder is a religious celebration, which combines catholic and Aymara traditions and recognizes the diversity within Bolivia while bringing everyone together.
The performances were incredible and their importance was very clear, as was the parents’ pride that their children were part of the performance. The parade lasts between 3-4 hours and is exhausting due to the activity, heat, and heavy costumes. As the students passed, family members gave them water or coca cola, and mothers were quick to advise their children on how to perform the dance moves. We watched several different dances some of which started with small fireworks and colorful bursts of smoke. The performers used bells as well as the sheep’s nails we learned about in the museum of Bolivian music yesterday, so that their motions become a part of the music that they are dancing to. It also makes the coordination of their motions more important and requires simultaneous movement between the dancers as differences become more noticeable.
Christie and Theresa were interviewed about their impression of the parade before we left.
On our way back to the school, we saw a protest advocating for animal rights.
We enjoyed some delicious salteñas as part of a goodbye celebration with Lucas Cecilia Carlos and Milka. Salteñas are a traditional Bolivian dish which comes in beef, chicken, and vegetarian forms. We discussed our upcoming trip and gained some valuable advice over things to try in our remaining time. We know that we will go back and visit soon. And we managed to take a few pictures together!
Later our entire group went to see Cholita wrestling in El Alto. On our way up to El Alto we saw a group of people practicing for El Gran Poder in the streets. Once we arrived at cholita wrestling it was an intense experience, and we even managed to meet one of the cholitas after her performance. The wrestling is a staged performance but it requires acrobatic work and the audience takes it very seriously, even throwing things at some of the “evil” wrestlers.
Once we returned from El Alto we all went to dinner in a nearby café. We also discovered that on Sundays many of the restaurants and almost all of the stores are closed. After a delicious dinner we introduced the newly arrived members of our group to the hippermaxi before returning to the hotel. Overall it was a long but wonderful day.
La familia TC con la cholita Rosita!!!!!