Psalms and Skulls

28 May, 2015 | Emily Gray



If you happen to be in La Paz in November, you’ll find yourself immersed in two Bolivian festivities for the dead: Todos Santos and Las Ñatitas. On the first of the month, Bolivians celebrate Todos Santos by spending the day at the graves of their deceased loved ones, saying prayers and making offerings of special bread called t’antawawas. This traditional Roman Catholic holiday is a solemn event, unlike Las Ñatitas, which is celebrated 7 days later and stems from indigenous tradition. This second celebration features a lively party at the cemetery with real-life skulls. Families return to the graveyard with the craniums, or “ñatitas”, which are dressed-up in festive clothing and offered flowers, cigarettes, coca leaves, and serenades of cheerful music. These two holidays peacefully coexist on the Bolivian calendar and represent the country’s uniquely intertwined Catholic and indigenous heritage.


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