Ichapekene Piesta, the biggest festival of San Ignacio de Moxos
Bolivia (Plurinational State of)
Inscribed in 2012 (7.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Every year, the inhabitants, both young and old, of San Ignacio de Moxos in Bolivia celebrate Ichapekene Piesta, a syncretic festival that reinterprets the Moxeño founder myth of the Jesuit victory of Ignacio de Loyola and melds it with indigenous beliefs and traditions. The festivities begin in May with firework displays, singing and praises, and continue in July with daily and nightly celebrations of masses, funeral wakes, alms-giving and feasts. The main representation of the victory of Saint Ignatius involves twelve sun warriors, wearing spectacular feathers, who battle the guardians of the holy flag – the original ‘owners’ of the forest and water – before converting them finally to Christianity. These rites are an act of faith and constant rebirth, allowing the Moxeños to be reborn into the Christian tradition in the presence of the spirits of their ancestors. The main procession involves 48 groups of participants disguised as masked ancestors and animals, reinforcing the importance of respect for nature. They play tricks and dance to the accompaniment of the Baroque-era music of the Jesuit missions, then around midnight fireworks pop from the top of their wide-brimmed hats, symbolizing the gift of light and vision to live respectfully.