Day 44 – Urkupina – Luck for the Quinoa

Day 44 – Urkupina – Luck for the Quinoa

Approaching the gates of Urkupina.

Approaching the gates of Urkupina.

Today we attended the Urkupina Festival, dating back to the 18th century, in honor of a miracle witnessed by a young woman tending sheep on the outskirts of Cochabamba during the colonial era hundreds of years ago. The woman saw the image of a virgin on a local hilltop. Since then, that spot has become the place for sacred pilgrimages where people travel from all around to visit the site: breaking rocks from the ground to symbolize wealth, purchasing miniatures of their hopes and dreams, lighting candles, saying blessings, visiting medicine men and women and priests, visiting the shrine of the Virgin of Urkapina and getting blessings and wishes for health, prosperity, abundance, luck and well-being.

Items for sale for blessings

Items for sale for blessings

Lighting candles.

Lighting candles.

Academic studies have shown that this powerful celebration of faith and hope has real results, with many of the items that people wishing for such as college degrees, Bolivian passports, babies, houses, food, cars, computers, and cell phones actually are realized. Once the items are blessed, people bring them home and the first Friday of each month, they have a ch’alla and gather together to light incense and remember the items they desired and thank the earth mother, rivers, mountains and their ancestors for helping them to realize these dreams. It is believed best to return to Urkapina three years in a row for the most luck. People who have cut rocks from the hilltop return them to get others the next year. The larger the rock, the more luck one’s family will receive. It’s hard work, and like the man lending out sledgehammers last night explained, “luck does not come easily, you have to work for it.” Just like the hard work it took to break off some rock with the sledge hammer.

Festival dancers 0 Caparel!

Festival dancers 0 Caparel!

Here is my Ukapina hopes and dreams. I have quinoa for food abundance, health and wealth, a frog which represents wealth and well-being because the frog lives both under the mud (underworld) and on the land thus having the ability to travel between two worlds, an abundance of Bolivian money for my work here, and a long-term 20-year work contract as I an am adjunct faculty member working on a short term contractual basis.

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