By Gina Baldivieso |
La Paz (EFE).- The pre-carnival celebrations in La Paz began last Sunday with the traditional Unearthing of the Cucumber, a symbolic act in which that mischievous Andean carnival character who emulates European harlequins came back to life with the kiss of a beauty queen, in the middle of a foam party.
The rain was not an impediment for dozens of people to go to the patrimonial General Cemetery in the populous Garita area of Lima, from where a “funeral procession” led by the mayor of La Paz, Iván Arias, who helped transfer the coffin in which Cucumber was buried at the end of last carnival.
Ahead of the coffin was a retinue of candidates for the crown of La Paz carnival queen, together with the sovereign of that festivity in Tarija, Elizabeth Flores, a special guest of the municipality as a sign of twinning with that region located in southern Bolivia.
There was also a Ch’uta and La Cholita from La Paz, who together with Cucumber complete the trio of emblematic characters of this city’s carnival.
There was no shortage of the “widows” of Pepino, some cholitas who wore black veils and asked him, between simulated cries, to come back to life.
As the procession progressed, at times a gloved hand would appear through a crack in the sky-blue coffin.
After going through a few streets, the procession stopped at a stage where the coffin was deposited, which was flanked by the aspiring carnival queen and several cholitas.
The municipal officials removed the lid of the coffin for Flores to recite some couplets or verses in the style of the Tarijeño carnival, with some compliments for Pepino.
«Earring, earring, earring. One Two Three Four Five. Five, four, three, two, one, I had seen many beautiful men, but none like this Pepino,” said the Tarijeña sovereign, before which the picaresque character from La Paz began to show signs of life waving his hands and feet.
But it was Flores’s kiss that brought Pepino back to life amid jets of foam, applause and loads of colored confetti, in addition to the incessant drizzle.
Then Pepino embraced Ch’uta and, after an exchange of gifts between the authorities and the representatives of the La Paz carnival troupes, the party began.
The undisputed king of the La Paz carnival is Pepino, who is dressed in a mask and a kind of jumpsuit with lace that is usually two-tone, and reflects the joy and urban debauchery during these festivities.
The character usually carries a backpack with a mixture and serpentine that he throws while walking through the streets of La Paz during the street parades that are organized between Carnival Saturday and Tuesday.
Emerged at the beginning of the last century, the Pepino is a mixture between the “clowns”, the ancient clowns, and the kusillo, a character from the Andean culture similar to a harlequin or a jester, explained to EFE the municipal secretary of Cultures, Rodney Miranda.
While the Ch’uta and the chola from La Paz introduce Aymara customs into the festival, such as gratitude to the “Pachamama” or Mother Earth for its fruits, a tradition rooted in western Bolivia.
The Ch’uta wears pants that bulge at the hips, a shirt, a short jacket, a hat, and a mask, and he moves with a rhythmic trot, making his partner spin incessantly, who may be one or two cholitas, the emblematic Bolivian Aymara. with their wide skirts, bowler hat and long braids that characterize them.
According to Miranda, Ch’uta, who, like Pepino, has a shrill voice, is a kind of satire on the colonizers because of the mustache and hat, and the chola “is identity, she is the quintessential La Paz woman.”
The Secretary of Cultures stressed that this year marks two decades since the first Cucumber Dig up, an act that begins a broad agenda of activities that will be officially presented this coming Tuesday.
“It is a very high expectation because we are resuming all the activities of the La Paz Carnival again,” said Miranda.
He recalled that in 2022 the festivities returned after a two-year hiatus, although they were limited by the remnants of the covid-19 pandemic, but this year the agenda will be complete and brings together various institutions dedicated to folklore and culture in the city .