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El Carnaval de Oruro
El Carnaval de Oruro (or Carnival of Oruro) is the biggest annual cultural event in Bolivia. Considered by many the finest in South America after the Brazilian carnival in Rio de Janeiro, it is a carnival that should not be missed if traveling around Latin America.
The carnival has been recognized by UNESCO since 2001 as a World Heritage event and declared the carnival as one of Mankind's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The Carnaval de Oruro is located in the old mining city of Oruro, which is located in what is known as the Altiplano region of the high Andes Mountains in Bolivia, South America. The Oruro carnival typically begins a week before Lent each year.
The highlight of the Carnival is conducted over three days and nights, with fifty groups parading through the city over a route of four kilometers. The groups are not just from Oruro but from all over Bolivia. The groups represent various indigenous dance forms, and are accompanied by several bands. (see video below)
The origins of the carnival is said to date back to the late 1700's, where legend has it that a thief called Chiru-Chiru was mortally wounded and the Virgen de la Candelaria (Virgin of the Candle Mass) took care of him in a mineshaft until he eventually died. Miners soon found his body there and were astonished to see on the wall above the him an almost life-sized image of the Virgen de la Candelaria.
The miners decided immediately to recognize the Virgen de la Candelaria as the Virgen del Socavon (Virgin of the Mineshaft)," protector of the working population and along with the mining community they decided that every year they would celebrate it with a great fiesta.
Over the many years the legend and has been combined with other ancient indigenous tales. Today the Carnival celebrations are a combination of Andean folklore and Catholic rituals.Some of the parade route for the carnival is lined with bleachers, in which tickets are sold for a seat. People are able to choose their seat locations and receive numbered tickets for specific streets.
Certain seats around the main plazas and along certain central streets are considered more desirable and cost more than those in other areas. Prices of seats vary from $3 to $15, depending on the location. Another option is make your way through the crowds of people standing along the parade route to get a view.
Hotel room rates around the Carnaval de Oruro dates will be triple and tend to fill up fast, so it is best to book a hotel well in advance. If hotels are tough to find go to a tourist information booth in Oruro and they should be able direct you to a place to sleep if no hotels are available.
Video of Oruro Carnival
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