Bolivian Festival in Manassas

Two weeks have passed since the Annual Bolivian Festival in Northern Virginia. If it hadn’t been for the complimentary admission ticket for those distributing information about Escuela Bolivia, the organization which I am now a Board Member of, I would have probably skipped the event altogether.

First of all, the event which featured all of the area’s folkloric dance troupes, food vendors and throngs of Bolivians from all across the DC Metro area was located at a great distance from its usual location right in the heart of Arlington (or Arli-bamba as some say). Originally I thought this change of venue was to accommodate the growing number of immigrants who are being priced out of the housing market and obligated to live in the suburbs outside of the Beltway like Manassas, Virginia. However, I learned that the high school in Arlington that normally rented their field, decided to end that relationship with the organizing committee. Apparently last year, the field was left in such utter disarray from the Festival.

Manassas is about a 30 minute drive from Arlington. The admission ticket had a pretty hefty price of $15 per person, which included seeing the group Tupay perform later that evening. I certainly wasn’t going to stay another five hours to hear them. Imagine a family of six spending upwards of $150 – $200 with all of the food and drinks, and it may price a lot families out of attending. Yet, there were thousands of people in attendance (although it seemed that the majority were family members of the dance groups).

In the mid-afternoon, the various dance groups (toba, tinku, caporales, morenada, etc) lined up and waited their turn for NoVa’s own version of an entrada. Around this circular road on the Fairgrounds, people brought lawn chairs and displayed an utter lack of enthusiasm. Instead of a typical brass band providing backing music, a pick-up truck was loaded up with DJ equipment and speakers. Things were vastly different than the usual festive scene of Carnaval in Oruro. Perhaps the absence of beer vendors toned down the mood.

Finally, I was not overly excited about the prospects of getting Bolivian food. With so many Bolivian restaurants within arms-reach near my home, eating salteñas or silpancho is no longer the event that it was when I first arrived in the area. But, nevertheless I managed to order a plate of chicharron (without the mote).

So with that, the entire event was rather ho-hum. For me, I know I can see and eat the real thing fairly often. Traveling to Bolivia on an annual basis has left me spoiled for real salteñas (the best ones are the potosinas on Calle Ayacucho in Cochabamba, by the way) and seeing a more animated crowd at entradas. But for some, I know that this is as close as they are going to get to curb their nostalgia for their homeland. I know some Bolivians who have not been back for 7-10 years, citing cost, wanting to wait till children are old enough to appreciate the trip and documenation issues. Nevertheless, there were still a large number in spite of the distance involved.


2 thoughts on “Bolivian Festival in Manassas

  1. I want to know who or whose are the persons who bring traditional and folcloric clothes from my country BOLIVIA to United States?

    I don’t agree with this kind of spectacles abroad, if we want to show our culture we have to invite others to visit BOLIVIA, on that way we grow up receiving tourism, that this is amog others aspects so important to finish the poverty. Turism in Bolivia could help a lot but nobody care about that and continuing to sending our music and other traditional things abroad, this is not fare. If we want to demonstrate our music and our culture invite all to visit our country, that is the best way!

    And for the ones they don’t know about the Superb Carnival of Oruro Bolivia, by the UNESCO, the Carnival of ORURO is now CULTURAL HERITAGE OF THE HUMANITY. Patrimonio Intagible de la Humanidad. So as a bolivians we have to take care our patrimony any time any where.

    See you keep in contact, we have to much to talk didn’t we?

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