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Altars for the dead fill streets as Bolivians farewell souls

By Gina Baldivieso

La Paz/Santa Cruz, Nov 2 (EFE).- Altars for the deceased in the streets of La Paz, and flowers and candles taken to graves in Santa Cruz on Wednesday marked farewells to the souls visiting their loved ones, according to tradition in Bolivia.

Bolivians believe that the souls arrive at homes every All Saints Day on Nov. 1 at noon to visit their relatives and are then farewelled with prayers 24 hours later on the Day of the Dead.

Receptions in houses and some public institutions involved altars on which special breads in the shape of people and animals, fruit, sugar cane, sweets, and the favorite food and drink of the deceased are placed, along with their photographs and other items.

Many families in La Paz went to the main General Cemetery to clean graves, leave flowers and pray for their deceased loved ones, and some even hired musicians to play dedicated songs.

Some people entered the cemetery carrying t’anta wawas, the characteristic anthropomorphic loaves of bread that are placed on the altars, in order to deliver them to the “reziris” – men and women who come mainly from rural areas on these dates to take food in exchange for their prayers.

As noon approached, so did the time to say goodbye to the souls, and more families arrived and moved their altars to the streets surrounding the cemetery to wait for the reziris and give them bread, pasakallas (sweet puffed corn), fruit and maicillos (cornflour cookies).

Dulfredo Caero parked his vehicle in a square near the cemetery and in the back he set up an altar with his sons and daughters to remember his wife Rosario Romero, who died two years ago.

“So that the little soul arrived yesterday (Tuesday) we have set the table in my house, so that it comes at twelve o’clock. And now we have come here to the cemetery to dispatch it,” he told EFE.

Caero added that it is tradition to deliver the food from the altars in exchange for prayers so that the souls of the deceased “rest in peace” and “go to heaven happy.”

A few meters from Caero’s vehicle, Francisco Challoco and his relatives also set up an altar in memory of his niece and waited with bread, fruit and other food for the reziris.

“We come from El Alto (a neighboring city of La Paz). Our grandparents, our great-grandparents used to pray – that’s why we are praying,” Challoco told EFE.

The reziris move from altar to altar with sacks in which they place the food they receive for praying.

“We are asking that they help them in their lives, that they be happier, that their children study,” said reziri Gabriel Rodríguez.

Although Santa Cruz, the capital of the homonymous region, has been experiencing a citizen’s strike for two weeks, people made efforts to reach the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cemetery carrying flowers and candles to the graves of their loved ones.

People from other Bolivian regions also preserved the Andean tradition of setting up altars for the deceased in the tombs with t’anta wawas, fruit and drinks that they also gave to those who came to pray for their deceased loved ones. EFE


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