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All Dressed Up with Nowhere to Go... La Fiesta del Gran Poder

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Bolivia Manta

Map of Bolivia.
After five wrong turns and a spin through the mercado near Buenos Aires street, I finally came across the Dorado. The Dorado is a small section of town where costume-makers labor to get special clothes ready for "La mayor Fiesta Folklorica de los Andes," (the biggest folklore festival of the Andes), EL GRAN PODER (the great power).

"It's a big party. People dance in the street!" said Jose Luis, 15. Unfortunately... I have to miss what Jose says is "the best festival in La Paz." He told me, "You have to stay for it, you have to stay and dance!" Alas, I have to move on, but not before Jose gives me a taste of what the festival entails.

Big city life in Bolivia!
El Gran Poder, usually held around late May or early June, celebrates the "Senor de Gran Poder" (Lord of Great Power). As the sun rises in the early morning, dancing groups of all ages, which have prepared their clothing and steps for weeks, get together and dance down the streets of La Paz. The beautiful procession starts from the Plaza Garita de Lima and moves forward in a colorful parade of spangles, velvet, feathers, headdresses, and shiny outfits. No one wants to miss out on the festivities, and Jose’s store was busy with customers getting ready for the big day.

Jose Luis dresses his clients in spangles, velvet, feathers, headdresses, and shiny outfits.
While I was in Jose's store, a few clients came in wanting matching dress and pants outfits for their little children. One couple settled on a tan outfit for their little girl, with a beautiful, flowing cord decorating the front. And for their little boy, nothing would do better than a royal blue suit with a matching hat. I did not want to be left out of the fun, so Jose dressed me up with a cape and wings off the mannequin sitting outside. The finishing touch? A wig and tiara. This definitely put me in the mood to celebrate!

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It's party time for this beauty queen!
On the day of the celebration, which is May 29 of this year, people get decked out in all their finery, and gather in the plaza. Then they set off in a "tipo entrada" procession, with grand flourishing entrances and lots of music to fill the air. As the colorful mass celebrates, the street vendors supply the local treats to eat. So, what is all this celebrating for?

"The Great Power that people celebrate has to do with the three sides to everyone's personality," says Maria downstairs from the Internet cafe. "Everyone has an evil side, a good side, and then a part of them that's in the middle, neither one or the other," she explained. "The festival celebrates the power of having three in one."

I was just happy to have a fancy outfit to wear instead of my jeans and Odyssey t-shirt. I wanted to parade out in the street myself, but Jose thought better. All dressed up, but we can't go! At least, I have the picture in my mind of the bright costumes, the sound of the folk music and the spirit of La Fiesta del Gran Poder!


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