Members of Local Bolivian Folklore Community Travel to Homeland for Annual Urkupiña Festival

Several members of some of Northern Virginia’s local Bolivian community’s folkloric dance groups made their way to Bolivia in August to pay homage to the Virgin of Urkupiña. The annual festival is an exuberant celebration full of colorful dancing, parades, and rituals which takes place the third week in August each year in the city of Quillacollo, a town just outside the City of Cochabamba.

The legend behind the festival tells of a poor shepherd girl who saw the Virgin Mary appear to her while flocking sheep upon a hillside near Quillacollo. The Virgin told the girl to gather stones from the hillside and return them home to her family. Following the orders of the Virgin, the girl gathered several stones and carried them towards her home. By the time she reached home, however, the stones had turned to silver, and the girl and her family were thus pulled out of poverty. When others inquired on the whereabouts of the Virgin, the shepherd girl responded in the native language of Quechua: “urqupiña” (“she is already in the hill”).

Today, a celebration in honor of this legend attracts nearly half a million people each year to the area of Cochabamba. The festival begins with a colorful and vibrant parade of over 10,000 dancers and musicians, helping to ignite the celebration. Following the immense parade, a Mass takes place, which is a solemn event that ends with a march of the image of the Virgin of Urkupiña through the Quillacollo streets. The festival ends with a procession up the hillside where traditions says that the Virgin appeared. Festival goers carry pieces of rock from the hillside and various miniature objects of things they desire in hopes of receiving blessings from the Virgin of Urkupiña. These stones and objects are symbolic of a loan, for once blessed, you must return them to the hillside at sometime in your life.

The festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña is an momentous event in Bolivian culture. It is a fusion of Catholic faith and Bolivian tradition that attracts not only Bolivian people, but people from across the globe, making the festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña a unique and thrilling celebration. (Info courtesy of Amizade.org blog)

Dancers represented Caporales San Simon Va, USA and Caporales Ruphay. Others travelled independent of their home groups to dance with groups based in Bolivia. Photos represent dancers from here and those living in Bolivia.

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