Virgen de Guadalupe Parades in Sucre, Bolivia
I’d like to say that it was my impeccable travel skills that brought me from Samaipata to Sucre, Bolivia, just in time for their biggest festival of the year: Festival de la Virgen de Guadalupe. But, who are we kidding? I had no idea the massive party was going on until I checked into my hostel and the guy working there told me it was starting the next day. (I stayed at the Celtic Cross hostel — book ahead because accommodation fills up quickly for the festival.)
September’s Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe attracted people from all over the region in to celebrate Mamita de Guadalupe, the Virgin de Guadalupe, patron saint of Sucre. The town was packed! Even more so, I think, than the crowds for the Semana Santa processions in Guatemala.
The festival centered around a parade that featured community after community performing traditional dances, in traditional outfits, winding through the city. There was everything from flashy sequined costumes to simple peasant gowns to ready to rumble miner gear.
Festival Virgen de Guadalupe was so popular that on Saturday we had to buy seats in order to view it. Every inch of space along the parade route was blocked off, some spaces with chalked numbers for you to call. (Ticket scalping happens in all countries, I guess!) Luckily the guy at my hostel went out to buy tickets and we scored seats for 50 Bolivianos (about $7) each.
No one could really give me a clear answer as to when the festivities actually started. And it didn’t help that the only flyer I could find listed a start time for one day as 13:00pm and for the next as 8:00pm. (You can’t use military time AND am/pm and have them contradict!)
But, on Friday I arrived at the parade around 3pm and left around 9:30pm. It was still going in full force.
On Saturday I arrived at the parade around 4pm and left around 2am. It was still going in full force.
And, on Sunday, despite the roads no longer being blocked off, people were still at it! Parading all over town.
So, what I can tell you is that the festival started at some time on Friday and then probably is still going on weeks later…
I can also tell you that the packaged cuba libre that some Bolivian 22-year kept giving to me tasted more like chocolate soda than rum and Coke.