By Yolanda Salazar
La Paz, Nov 2 (EFE).- Every year Bolivian families prepare for a reunion with the “ajayu” (soul) of their deceased loved ones, preparing large altars in homes or cemeteries with sweet breads, drinks or dishes of their liking.
Over All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead, it is believed that souls visit their families to savor the meals they enjoyed in life and to reconnect with their loved ones.
Families get together to make bread or to buy a variety of pastries to add to the tables that are mostly set up in homes to receive the long-awaited visit.
Others prefer to take the bread and flowers, in some cases even musicians, to the cemeteries so that the souls can arrive without problem.
Elizabeth Rivero told Efe that she came to the outskirts of the General Cemetery in La Paz to prepare an altar for her grandmother who died in 2019. Among her offerings, she has included sugar cane as a “cane” to help her grandmother “walk.”
Some of the most significant types of bread offered are the “t’antawawas,” loaves that have a face representing the dead, or animals such as horses so that the soul can ascend, or loaves in the form of stairs to help them climb.
The altars also carry coca leaves, fruit, cigars, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, and even much more elaborate dishes that were the favorites of the deceased.
Every Nov. 1, families set up the altars, which also include photographs, candles and even onion stalks that are believed to quench the thirst of the dead, and at noon they pray to welcome them.
Public and private institutions also make the altars to remember their deceased workers or prominent personalities.
On this occasion, the Mayor’s Office of La Paz made an altar in the General Cemetery to remember those who died from Covid-19, including some of its officials.
“We have all lost a loved one, an acquaintance, a neighbor, a friend, doctors, police, so we are also receiving these little souls at this table,” the municipal secretary of cultures, Rodney Miranda, told Efe.
In addition, this year dances, indigenous music and prayers in Aymara were also included.
“Beyond their absence, the affection that will last eternally in the memory and the heart will always be present,” says the epitaph on the Mayor’s Office table dedicated to those who died from Covid.
Tradition indicates that the souls stay to visit the homes of their relatives until noon on Nov. 2, which is a holiday in the country during which they enjoy the food.
At that time, the families return to the altars to pray and thank their loved ones for visiting, then say goodbye until their return next year.
The pastries and food are then distributed or exchanged and the altar dismantled.
This year there was little influx in the cemeteries since it was mandatory to present a vaccination certificate to enter, so many relatives set up the altars for their loved ones outside them. EFE