Bolivians decorate skulls with sunglasses and…


Bolivians celebrated the Day of Skulls, or Dia de las Ñatitas, over the weekend, a colorful tradition rooted in ancient indigenous beliefs that is meant to bring good fortune and protection by honoring the dead.

Known as ‘ñatitas’ the skulls are decorated and paraded to the General Cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia, a week after All Saints Day and after Day of the Dead.

Some are adorned with sunglasses and cigarettes as well as colorful flowers and hats.

It’s not unusual for large parties to kick off where people dance to music, drink alcohol and eat candies. 

The celebration of the skulls, which are kept indoors most of the year, is believed to have its roots in the Uru Chipaya custom of disinterring the bodies of loved ones at the one-year anniversary of their death.

Bolivians on Sunday celebrated Day of Skulls, or Dia de las Ñatitas, which honors the dead for bringing people good fortune and protection

Participants will decorate skulls with a variety of items, including hats, flowers, cigarettes, sunglasses before parading them down to the General Cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia

Participants will decorate skulls with a variety of items, including hats, flowers, cigarettes, sunglasses before parading them down to the General Cemetery in La Paz, Bolivia 

Ñatitas, skulls of the dead, who people asking for blessings, health and protection are seen before the Dia de las Ñatitas (Day of the Skulls) celebrations, in La Paz, Bolivia

Ñatitas, skulls of the dead, who people asking for blessings, health and protection are seen before the Dia de las Ñatitas (Day of the Skulls) celebrations, in La Paz, Bolivia

The Ñatitas are skulls of deceased people that are believed to have special powers and people ask them for different favors in a tradition connected to All Saints Day

The Ñatitas are skulls of deceased people that are believed to have special powers and people ask them for different favors in a tradition connected to All Saints Day

Toads, which are symbols of the soil and of luck in Bolivia,  complement the Ñatitas during Dia de las Ñatitas celebrations. Pictured: a statue of a toad with a cigarette in its mouth

Toads, which are symbols of the soil and of luck in Bolivia,  complement the Ñatitas during Dia de las Ñatitas celebrations. Pictured: a statue of a toad with a cigarette in its mouth 

The festival this year coincides with the inauguration of Bolivia’s new President Luis Arce, which caps a turbulent year for the Andean country that has been rattled over the last year by political upheaval and the coronavirus pandemic.

‘We come to ask or the devotees come here to ask for the favors they want, especially asking for health and for the well-being of family,’ said Angel Aduviri, celebrating the day, adding the skulls helped people get things they needed.

‘In 2014 a person told the skulls that he wanted to be a lawmaker and the skulls granted his wish, the person was elected a lawmaker.’ 

But fears of the coronavirus lingered across the country, where officials have reported more than 142,000 cases and 8,700 deaths.

Ñatitas, skulls of the dead, who people asking for blessings, health and protection are seen before the Dia de las Ñatitas (Day of the Skulls) celebrations, in La Paz, Bolivia

Ñatitas, skulls of the dead, who people asking for blessings, health and protection are seen before the Dia de las Ñatitas (Day of the Skulls) celebrations, in La Paz, Bolivia

Angel Aduviri (pictured) arranges the Ñatitas' altar, skulls of the dead, who people asking for blessings, health and protection are seen before the Dia de las Ñatitas

Angel Aduviri (pictured) arranges the Ñatitas’ altar, skulls of the dead, who people asking for blessings, health and protection are seen before the Dia de las Ñatitas

A man asks the Ñatitas, skulls of deceased people that are believed to have special powers, for a favor ahead of celebrations for Dia de las Ñatitas

A man asks the Ñatitas, skulls of deceased people that are believed to have special powers, for a favor ahead of celebrations for Dia de las Ñatitas

Bolivian officials announced the celebration would not be held at the General Cemetery because the burial grounds were closed on Sunday. Pictured: People pray to the Ñatitas

Bolivian officials announced the celebration would not be held at the General Cemetery because the burial grounds were closed on Sunday. Pictured: People pray to the Ñatitas 

A coffin-shaped bread and Tanta Wawas (bread children) are seen at an altar set up in honor of the victims of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a market before Day of the Dead celebrations, which happens about a week before Dia de las Ñatitas

A coffin-shaped bread and Tanta Wawas (bread children) are seen at an altar set up in honor of the victims of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a market before Day of the Dead celebrations, which happens about a week before Dia de las Ñatitas

Pagina Siete, a daily newspaper published in La Paz, reports that the city’s mayor asked citizens to celebrate at home.

‘We ask people who have ñatitas and who took them to the Cemetery, this time not to do so, to keep them in their homes,’ said Mayor Luis Revilla. 

The publication reports that celebration would not be held in the General Cemetery because the burial grounds are closed on Sunday. 

Traditions and cultures of the Aymara, Quechua and other groups remain strong in Bolivia, where indigenous people are a majority in a country set in the heart of South America.

Arce’s socialist MAS party, which was in power for almost 14 years under indigenous leader Evo Morales until he was ousted last year amid protests, has traditionally had strong ties with the country’s indigenous groups and movements.

‘I have come to visit the Natitas, we come every year, there are many devotees,’ said devotee Rosario Zelaya. ‘They are our angels, they take care of us, guide us, help us, protect us and bless us. Obviously first God and then our souls.’ 

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