Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the nations of the world to close, lColors boiled and music boomed at the Bolivian Oruro Carnival.
Bands and dancers sported hand-embroidered and squeaky-toned costumes combined with lights and fires. The musicians danced and the dancers sang.
At 3,735 meters above sea level, 35,000 dancers and 5,000 musicians squandered folklore this year on their 4 kilometer pilgrimage out of devotion to the Virgen del Socavón. The Oruro Carnival, in the southwest of Bolivia, has been declared a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Although it is a stage for celebration, it is also a space that reflects the inequalities between men and women. Excluded since the beginning of the carnival, women and sexual diversity installed an arena of vindication there.
In the musical arena, the Bands Festival was directed by a woman for the first time in 2020 after 18 years of being createdor the band. The director, pianist and soprano Vanina Miranda, together with three other directors, selected and prepared the scores for 23 songs and directed their interpretation.
Hless than ten years ago, the first incursions of women into gangs led to the following caption: “Beautiful women give another” touch “to the bands.” Qualify women's bodies – even if it has nothing to do with their trade; and it is not something that is observed in men – it is the opportune accompaniment to the patriarchal rhythm.
A change of score is marked when create the Candelaria Female Instrumental Band and the Santa Cecilia Band, in 2017 and 2018 respectively. These two bands were created and are made up only of women.
In the dance arena, women too They disobey the macho compass of role assignment. One sample is the Diablada, where l is representeda fight between good and evil. Before, lhe women could only personify the devilish characters. Recently there are women with the aesthetic of female angels who represent seven virtues and accompany the Archangel Saint Michael.
In the Caporal dance, the Machas, a female version of the Caporales, are also recent. That they are called “Machas” and not “Las Caporales / as” makes evident the need to refer to the masculine (of the male), to name the strength of women. Another curious aspect is that men do not seek to represent cholitas, a female character in the Caporales dance.
Trans women opened the door to go carnival
Until the 1970s, at the Oruro Carnival, the only female presence was that of the Virgen del Socavón, lBiological women could not participate due to conservatism, and the feminine was represented by trans, homosexuals and men heterosexuals, explains the researcher and cultural manager David Aruquipa.
In the Morenada dance, men dressed up as women to represent traditional Chinese Morena. In the 60s and 70s, He sexualized the Chinese Morena character and created a transvestite aesthetic: the skirt was shortened, the boots were lengthened on the spout and platform and fantasy embroidery was included in the clothing. It turned China Morena into the “China Morena Mariposa”, explains Aruquipa.
But in the mid-1970s, trans women were banned from participating because a dancer – Barbarella – had kissed her. the de facto president Hugo Bánzer, relates Aruquipa. Then the biological women were incorporated.
In carnivals, machismo also changes its costume
Although carnivals are perceived as permits for debauchery, there they also seek to control the bodies of women. Before, women did not have permission to dance or make music; now they have to accept sexual harassment in public space.
Harassment of young women translates into prompts like “move it, move it!”, Whistles and requests for kisses. If they do not agree, they will be accused of being bitter. It happens with male dancers but to a lesser extent and without penalty. Older adults are yelled at as mother-in-law. So, the role assigned to women is that of bodies that serve erotic or maternity demands.
Also, aa sort of sexual division of leisure. What spaces – away from care, family or home – do Bolivian women have to let off steam without being threatened by sexual harassment, rape or femicide? Rather, did youDo we have those spaces?
A possible answer comes from another Bolivian carnival rite. In Tarija, in southern Bolivia, there is the celebration of Comadres. The tradition is to celebrate the friendship between women by exchanging baskets with groceries, flowers and streamers. It happens on the Thursday before the carnival and the women take care that there is no male interference. It has expanded to other cities in Bolivia as a thematic party in bars and was also taken by the anarcho-feminist movement Mujeres Creando that called this year to the Comadres Bandidas Party.
We will continue to devise ways to disobey patriarchal mandates together. With less or greater feminist awareness, we ally ourselves as comadres and cross-dress reality. Feminist Emma Goldman said it, cAs if the Oruro Carnival knew: “If I can't dance, it's not my revolution.”