DixPix Photographs

     

SOUTH CORDILLERA

 
     
  Social Aspects: SUPERSTITION AND CEREMONY  

 

One person's superstition is another person's religion, and perhaps it is not fair to separate the mythologies.  Perhaps all modern religions are but complex superstitions that have survived long after they are required to explain the visible world, being deeply rooted in human nature, both our anxieties and our aspirations.

It is also true that the Catholic Church in Latin America has made a sort of truce with many of the practices and celebrations of the older beliefs, and is all the more colorful for the fusion.  And any successful movement knows that there is nothing like ceremony, or some excuse to dress up and have a party, to keep people happy.

 

Meet the Equeco (alias iququ).  A little good-luck figure decked out in whatever you might be wishing for (money here).  Keep him in your house, give him cigarettes, and he will bring you luck.  Note the hat, this is mainly a belief from the altiplano of Bolivia and Peru. Click to see big picture (391x480 pixels; 53 KB)
Some people say you can't have too many Equecos, but don't break one, that's bad jujus.  The name is apparently from an Ayamaran god of wealth. Click to see big picture (546x480 pixels; 71 KB)
The most obvious and semi-religious sign of superstition for the traveler is the road-side shrine (not those marking accident sites).  One leaves offerings or pleads for safety on the road ahead.  On some roads in the southern Cordillera, any help you can arrange is welcome. Click to see big picture (639x480 pixels; 153 KB)
But there are strange offerings left at some of the shrines.  Old truck tires seems to be the currency at this one in northern Argentina. Click to see big picture (640x409 pixels; 134 KB)
And this example from Patagonia shows the more common system of leaving a gift of empty bottles.  I am not too sure what the theory behind this is. Click to see big picture (640x446 pixels; 163 KB)
This, on the other hand, is one of many shrines dedicated to the Difunta (dead) Correa Click to see big picture (590x480 pixels; 155 KB)
This folk saint is based on a tale of how she suckled her infant after she died of cold and exhaustion in the 1840's in San Juan Province. Click to see big picture (640x401 pixels; 86 KB)
The Difunta Correa is a phenomenon. The rumor of that minor "miracle" has somehow been inflated into a full-blown cult with hundreds of thousands of believers.  At the main shrine (and miracle site) near Vallecito, models of houses people are hoping for or giving thanks for, have been left for the blessing of a "peoples saint". Click to see big picture (640x410 pixels; 96 KB)
This sector specializes in licenses plates, presumably requesting cars.  Most are the dull Argentine ones, but I see a couple from Ontario, Canada. Click to see big picture (464x480 pixels; 138 KB)
If Correa doesn't seem to be listening, you can always plead your case at a shrine to Gauchito Gil, a folk saint from the Corrientes area. Click to see big picture (633x480 pixels; 110 KB)
Gil's many shrines are marked by red flags.  He was killed in 1878 for desertion from the army, but is credited with having saved (from the grave) the sick son of the policeman who killed him. Click to see big picture (640x332 pixels; 95 KB)
The Catholic Church gets in on this racket mainly through effigies of Mary.  Here at a grotto next to the Church of San Francisco, Curico, Chile, hundreds of plaques have been affixed by people thanking her for granting their requests. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 122 KB)
But the powers of the grotto could not save their church from the earthquake of February, 2010. Click to see big picture (585x480 pixels; 120 KB)
Back to the altiplano.  These are dried llama fetuses.  It would be tempting the evil spirits to construct a building without one of these under the cornerstone.  And for larger buildings, a human cadaver would really be preferred. Click to see big picture (480x313 pixels; 64 KB)
Any ceremony can be made special by the right setting.  This one is in a great rock cavern known as the Anfiteatro Cafayate in Salta Province of Argentina. Click to see big picture (640x440 pixels; 145 KB)
There are those that feel that marijuana makes any ceremony more meaningful, well at least more intense.  This is a mural on a wall in the city of General Roca, Argentina. mural
Most of the public ceremonies in Chile seem to be huaso-driven, which is to say emphasize life on horseback.  Here they parade in costume through the streets of Pisco-elqui to celebrate Sept. 18th, Chilean day of Independence Click to see big picture (640x422 pixels; 107 KB)
Some of the older practices have also been  preserved as ceremonies.  This demonstrates the method of threshing grain by running horses in a circle through it. The event is known as a Trillag, but that is just a derivative of the word for threshing. Click to see big picture (640x420 pixels; 97 KB)
Chile's most famous festival is La Tirana, held in the north in mid July to celebrate the nation's patron saint, the Virgin of Carmel.  It involves various forms of devil-like masks, which again shows how the nimble Catholic Church has managed to blend in with the indigenous beliefs. Click to see big picture (520x480 pixels; 70 KB)
The town of Caylloma, high in the mountains of southern Peru, celebrates its saint's day with a most unsaintly street party. caylloma
But when it comes to celebrating devils (cleverly given European characteristics) there is nothing like the Diablada in Oruro, Bolivia.  This statue at the entrance celebrates this mining town's greatest claim to fame.  It looks like a cross between a bug and a conquistador. Click to see big picture (247x480 pixels; 47 KB)
Ever noticed how many depictions of the devil look like insects? Click to see big picture (304x480 pixels; 67 KB)
Blue eyes, must represent a gringo. Click to see big picture (572x480 pixels; 110 KB)
Actually the Diablada, a two-day parade and general blow-out, is as much about showing off local custom and style. Click to see big picture (637x480 pixels; 108 KB)
In this case emphasizing the native sling. Click to see big picture (639x480 pixels; 122 KB)
Hmm, I don't recall that symbolism in pre-inca art. Click to see big picture (620x480 pixels; 121 KB)
Like most public ceremonies, the Diablada should not be taken too seriously.  Enjoy. Click to see big picture (465x480 pixels; 85 KB)
Also in Bolivia, and far from a public event, a full dress native dance. Click to see big picture (504x480 pixels; 106 KB)
This sort of event goes to the heart of the attraction of celebration, a time when you can cut loose, dance with a bottle if you wish. Click to see big picture (640x443 pixels; 122 KB)
Or wear strange masks, as seems to adorn celebrations in many cultures. Click to see big picture (525x480 pixels; 104 KB)
And stage an event sufficiently informal, that the kids can start to learn how to join this important aspect of their culture. Click to see big picture (519x480 pixels; 100 KB)