Potosí: Festival Day 2

I decide to head to fiesta. The groups on the second day are far more professional. One school has done something hp and new. They have dressed in rags with chains and blackened their faces, perhaps to represent slaves or miners or both. One girl in rags wants to dance with me but my hands are filled with a green jello desert with creme fresh. As I watched the group dance away I wish I had said yes but there was something that had held me back. These days something was always holding me back.

Street vendors honk their Harpo Marx bicycle horns and a woman walks by wearing an umbrella strapped to her head to block the sun. Fireworks explode in the clear blue sky.

In one group a girl stands out, dressed completely in pink while everyone else is in purple. She is far and away the best dancer. The reporters and videomen clamor around her. Young men offer her drinks, a beer? For one day at least she is a moviestar. Some of the dancers are shy of the cameras, others mug and pose. Obviously for some this is their moment to shine in front of the whole community in their borrowed finery. For others they have been pushed into ridiculous outfits and forced to dance like a circus bear or worse. Both only reinforce their fates.

It is like any country festival in the United States only better. The food is fresher and the prices are hardly inflated. If you don’t like the prices you can walk into any supermarket that lines the street and buy whatever you want. Beer, at least, is the same as supermarket prices. It is also drunk openly by all. There are no wristbands but I see no children drinking. Everyone seems involved and knows what to do and the event itself is free to all though you can pay if you want nice seats to sit in. There is beautiful kind of informality in it that is, perhaps, only possible in countries where lawsuits and regulations, if existing, are ignored. There seems to be no pressure to it: it is less a show and more of a community event.

The indigenous folks wear their traditional clothes and sit quietly on the sidewalk or sell things. The modern, western dressed crowd is usually very involved in the show. I think they are mostly out of towners in for the weekend. They shout, clap, and drink beer for fun. The indigenous crowd also drinks beer but they seem to drink it because tradition requires it. They do it slowly and with solemnity as if watching a Tennessee Williams play.

It could be because they have less money but they also don’t seem to buy that many things. Except sweets. They love sweets, popsicles and ice cream. An old Indian woman sits across from me, her face wrinkled like a prune. She sits among the folds of her skirt, shaded under her wide brimmed hat from the 1800s. She sucks on an ice cream and smiles a crinkly grin.

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