We wrote earlier about the special character and whimsy of Carnaval in La Paz, Bolivia, and thought we’d follow that up with a rundown on who you’re likely to see there…..
The Pepino is the principal character of La Paz’s Carnaval, a mestizo fusion of the Spanish harlequin and the Andean Kusillo. In his multicolored costumed adorned with jangling bells, a mask, streamers and whistles, he plays pranks on the crowd, whom sprays with water, colored flour and confetti, hits with his “mother-in-law killer” club of cloth-covered sponge, inviting participants to dance. A Pepino costume is unearthed each year in the General Cementery of La Paz to initiate Carnaval. During his short but mischievous life the Pepino must marry, and he’ll be buried anew to bring Carnaval to a close.
(The Merry Womanizer)
The woman-chasing Ch’uta arose in the 18th and 19th century, wearing a mask with a rosy face, blue eyes, and laugh all meant to imitate the Spanish lord. Changes to the Ch’uta’s outfit over time has left him with a vest reminiscent of a matador’s coat, pants with openings on both sides as well as bells and ribbons, the lluch’u ccapand ch’uspa. Today brightly colored beards are also the norm.
The Ch’uta Cholero is a recent variant of the traditional Ch’uta character that never fails to animate the crowd, dancing to the rhythm of the music in a lolling dance simulating a euphoric or drunken state and accompanied by two women- the one he left in the country and the one he found in the city; sometimes he might invite a couple to join him, but he is always well-accompanied.
He appears on the Sunday of Temptation for the Ch’uta’s parade, on hand to help bury the Pepino.
(The Aymara Ancestor)
The Kusillo is the oldest of these characters- during the times of the Aymara he would pop up throughout Bolivian altiplano during the Anata Festival celebrating the beginning of the harvest season and the arrival of the rains. He wears a bi-color mask with prominent nose and 3 to 5 horns.
(the Women of La Paz!)
Prancing on the arms of the women-loving Ch’utas, participating in the Pepinos’ obligatory marriages, parading through the Plaza Murillo asking for their widows’ rights following the symbolic burial of the Pepino- without the wide-skirted, bowler-hatted Bolivian Chola, Carnaval is not complete!
Alongside these principal characters are others of pre-Columbian or colonial origin, as well as modern costumed heroes and personalities from national politics. Remember to check our earlier posts for tips on enjoying La Paz’s Carnaval- and because this is the largest festival of the year for La Paz, make your plans as soon as possible! At Pirwa La Paz Backpackers, we still have rooms available- all complete with comfy beds, hot water 24/7, internet + wifi, and a continental breakfast all at rock-bottom prices!