Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.5

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Plurinational State of Bolivia has nominated Ritual journeys in La Paz during Alasita (No. 01182) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

During the ritual journeys in La Paz during Alasita, which begin on 24 January and last two or three weeks, participants procure ‘good luck’ miniatures associated with Ekeko, the city’s beneficent god of fertility. The activities begin with the search for and acquisition of the miniatures, followed by their consecration with the different Andean ritualists or their blessing by the Catholic Church. The miniatures acquire a new meaning since the individuals have vested them with faith, allowing their wishes to come true. People also exchange the miniatures to symbolically pay debts. The bearers and practitioners include a broad community of stakeholders, and inhabitants of the city participate irrespective of their social status. The practice promotes social cohesion and intergenerational transmission and improves intra-family relationships. The importance granted to donations and the payment of debts, even if symbolic, also lowers tensions between individuals and even social classes. Alasita rituals are primarily transmitted naturally within families, with children accompanying their parents during the journey. Efforts to safeguard Alasita have been continuous and depend mainly on civil society. Conservatories and museum exhibitions have raised awareness about certain Alasita themes, and municipal contests are organized to encourage the craft production of the miniatures and develop creativity, enjoying an ever-increasing number of participants.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The celebration includes ritual and commercial activities as well as activities of a broader social significance. The practice is embraced by the population of La Paz, including: craftspeople, Christmas exhibitors, indigenous communities, Catholic church officiants, families, the press and intellectuals who publish miniature newspapers as a form of critical and satirical expression. The practice constitutes a propitious opportunity to renew hopes of wellbeing and prosperity, family unity and union with friends and city inhabitants. The exchange of gifts and miniatures represents an act of community reintegration. The worship of Ekeko as an indigenous deity coexists with Christian beliefs. Families and individuals define their own ritual journeys and make ceremonial movements. All the actions, components and functions of the element are clearly identified in the file.

R.2:   The element contributes to the visibility of traditions that facilitate social dialogue in its various forms. It reveals the active co-existence of different religions, namely Christian and indigenous ones. Participants purchase, donate or swap good luck charm objects in the form of miniatures, thereby fostering different forms of exchange. The element further represents a syncretism of magic and religious beliefs of different kinds. It not only represents the hopes of people from different backgrounds and classes, but also provides an opportunity for dialogue and an appreciation of diversity. Since each individual defines his or her own search and ritual journeys, without the existence of a single ritual practice, the element greatly contributes to the sense of human creativity.

R.3:   The safeguarding measures were developed together with the communities concerned and include: documenting the historic memory of Alasita in La Paz by gathering the testimonials of the inhabitants, indigenous ritualists, priests and authorities; creating educational tools; reinforcing Alasita competitions; enhancing Alasita research and inventories; disseminating them using new technologies. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Museum of Ethnography and Folklore play an important role in the process of documenting and presenting the element. The State Party has an Action Plan – established by the institutions that form part of the Committee for Promoting Alasita – with budgetary line items, while the Municipality financially supports Alasita craft creations as a way of promoting the element and its transmission between generations. Stakeholders forming part of the Alasita Promotion Committee were required to take part in meetings and discussions in order to arrive at a consensus regarding the Safeguarding Plan. The safeguarding measures proposed also include the establishment of a Museum of Alasita in La Paz.

R.4:   All the social stakeholders and communities, institutions, groups and individuals concerned cooperated throughout the preparation of the file, taking part in three major phases: the first phase involved the creation of a Promotion Committee, with the goal of reuniting all the social stakeholders; the second phase began with twenty meetings devoted to organizing the volume of information, particularly through the organization of workshops on identifying the element; the third phase is described as a reflective, creative process focused on filling out the nomination form. The work was always carried out in liaison with the Promotion Committee. Informed consent was acquired through a campaign requesting inhabitants of La Paz to show their support. Fourteen books of signatures were submitted by numerous inhabitants of La Paz, and due attention is also paid to visual testimonies.

R.5:   The Alasita inventory was drawn up between 2013 and 2015 by the Intangible Heritage Unit of the Ministry of Cultures and Tourism, the National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore and the Autonomous Government of the La Paz Municipality. This was carried out with the participation of the communities and related groups such as the National Federation of Craftspeople and Christmas Exhibitors of Alasita. The current inventory is composed of twelve descriptive subjects and is updated accordingly following each new event dedicated to the Alasita tradition.

  1. Inscribes Ritual journeys in La Paz during Alasita on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.