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Janet and her Girlfriends in a Special Day (Photos included)

The open market took over Sucre street like every year on Thursday before Carnival, with colorful paper flags, round baskets, round sweet bread of all sizes, colorful candy and endless fruit and vegetable arrangements. Janet is a Tarijenian who woke up yesterday morning and went to the market in a hurry. The vendors offered her all the goodies and she looked not only for good prices but for the best pieces of bread and vegetables, so common in this season. Only the best for the girlfriend she would make “Comadre” today.

Her little daughter goes to kindergarten and she will also make her best friend a “comadre” today. It is the last Thursday before Carnival and one week before it was “compadres” the occasion for male friends to become best friends or “compadres”. But this Thursday the party is a lot bigger, because in a way, the meaning of the day is liberation, and all women are free from family work and dedicate their time to devotedly befriending their female companions in life.

Tarijenian husbands are truly very “Machos” and go out with their male friends every Friday, but women don´t. One day in the year, only one, they are able to break the chains of womanhood that does not allow for them to go out with friends very much. And they do. Janet called her friend Ruth this morning to tell her she will be at her house after lunch at one. She needs to take her child to school, where she will be having a small party, and then to the “Entrada de Comadritas”, a parade where girls of all ages dance in the streets with their baskets on their heads and their newly made comadrita (small comadre).

Janet hurried to take Anita to school. Anita wore a short skirt and her braided hair was topped with laces to match the skirt. A beautiful little angel. When they got to school, the band was playing tunes and all children were dancing. Anita chose Wendy to make her comadrita, her best friend. She gave her the basket with yummy goods, and they danced together around school. They promised to be together in good and bad times and they ate from a piece of bread so that they would never fight.

When the celebration was over at school, Janet went home and had lunch in a total hurry. Her husband had made a light meal which she enjoyed. She was happy that Ruth was to be her comadre today. After lunch she was ready to get dressed. She braided her hair and wore a colorful embroidered shirt. She prepared some firecrackers to make a lot of noise in the door of her new comadre, a bottle of soda and a bottle of wine and of course, how could she forget, she hired a man who plays the Erke, an instrument made from a bull horn, with a traditional raucous and monotonous sound typical of carnival, to call her new comadre to come out and receive her basket.

Carnival traditions in Bolivia are different in all nine states, but they have one thing in common: somehow they all manage to “free the devil” and have fun during four weeks before the penitence coming in holy week. The carnival festivities end on Monday and Tuesday of carnival, two holydays here in Bolivia, which will take place next week. This Saturday there will be a parade in the streets where kids will dance with their best costumes. Sunday will be the turn of adults, who will dance in the streets too. On Monday there will be dancing in small parties with friends and on Tuesday Mother Earth will be celebrated with gifts in small burning fires, which I will talk about next week. Big family happening.

This Thursday, tradition mandates that women are free from all duties. Janet took all her stuff and knocked at Ruth´s door. She lighted the firecrackers and while the Erkero man was playing his instrument, she put serpentine around the neck of Ruth, her new comadre, and asked her to become best friends. They danced together arm in arm to the music of the erkero and went into the house and had a glass of wine with soda (they don´t want to get drunk). Ruth invited her with another glass of wine and they made a pledge to be together later that afternoon in the street parade, with a group of comadres called “These Comadres DO NOT want a husband”. Carnival is like that, always making fun of everything.

Janet and Ruth danced in the parade with the baskets in their heads and all the group of comadres “who DO NOT want husbands” went to the house of one of them and had a blast in an all-female party. They joked a lot, told stories about their husbands and made fun of all politicians. This group does not like to drink alcohol very much, so they focused more on having a good dish and great dessert. Before midnight the party was over and Janet went back home.

She tried not to wake up the family, but her husband was up waiting for her. He smiled when he saw the other two baskets his wife had been given. He had made dinner, he took care of the kids and made them sleep, he washed the clothes, made the kids do homework for tomorrow and washed and ironed school clothes. Janet told him every detail about the party and they laughed together at the insane jokes of the women. The day was over. Janet would wake up this Friday full of new stamina, with a bigger circle of girlfriends, and as she received two baskets, next year she will have to give back the baskets and confirm her new comadres how much she loves them.

She loves this day. She loves her new comadres. She will do this over and over again throughout her life, and new chains of friendship will form every year, in the Thursday of Comadres.

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Comments

jadefrank's picture

Compadres

Hi Jackie,

It's so nice to read this story of celebrating friendship and womanhood in Bolivia. Thank you for sharing a little piece of your world with us, through the eyes of Janet and Ruth. Beautiful! And the pictures are wonderful as well!

Hugs,
Jade

jap21's picture

Thanks Jade

I am glad you liked it! See, this is what I was inviting all of you to come and do back in November already. Hopefully you or any or some of the readers will come one day and share this activities with me. You are invited.

Love,

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

Jensine's picture

A special day for all women

I love, love, love this post and this story, Jackie. I feel so connected to this day and the women. I want to celebrate it too!!!. I think we should start this tradition of celebrating our girlfriends all around the world. Is it across all of Boliva now, or only in certain states? And, is it celebrated in other parts of South America? I am telling all my friends about it.
The photos really bring it alive!!
xoxo,

Jensine Larsen
World Pulse

jap21's picture

Yaaaaaaaaay!!!!

Dear Jensine,

Please plan it up and come on over next year. You know my house is open for you and as many friends as you would like to invite. I too think it is such a wonderful thing, that it should be done all over the world. Let us "campaign" for it to happen! Tarija is the bithplace of this tradition in Bolivia, although in the 1920's the same tradition used to be on in La Paz, but they forgot about it there. Instead, Tarijenians kept on going, and today it is the biggest party only for women in Bolivia. The cute thing about this is there is almost no malice in this gatherings here. I think in La Paz, the few parties there are, are more sophisticated (it is a big city, hehe).

The rest of Bolivia does not really celebrate this Thursday of Comadres, and there is definitely nothing like this is the rest of South America. I want to let the world know about this original party, as I don´t want the dances and the conception of it to be taken away by our neighboring countries. I want the world to know that this is Bolivian!

I will be reporting about other parties pretty soon, that are really great too. We Bolivians, are party lovers... and let me tell you, we are the champions of fun. Hahahaha.

Keep telling your friends about this Bolivian tradition, and tell tham also that I can send some beautiful booklets about Tarija and its costumes, with great pictures, for free. Just need you to pay for the postage. I only have 12 packages, so hurry.

I think I should post this in the offers column, uh? I will later on. Gotta go now.

Hugs,

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

JaniceW's picture

Comadres

I could not stop smiling as I read this post. The thought of girlfriends dancing in the streets, free of all shackles, responsibilities and obligations for one day. But alas, why for just one day? Let's all celebrate our girlfriends and sisters every week, even if it is just with a compliment. Thanks for sharing this wonderful day and let's hope it inspires us all to celebrate our comadres.

jap21's picture

You are invited to come

Dear Janice,

Get your stuff together and come next year. I want you to be my comadre, together with Jensine and Jade!

Love,

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

Cara Lopez Lee's picture

The Strength of Female Friendship

Thank you, Jackie, for your delightful story about the way your country's women celebrate friendship. When I visit Bolivia, I hope I get to come during this festival. It sounds so full of joy, love, and mischievous fun. And my mouth is watering at the thought of homemade sweet bread!

I echo Janet... I wish all women would celebrate our connections more often. I have many wonderful women friends and I don't know what I would do without them. They make life's difficulties easier to bear, and add so much to its joys. I find I share my emotions with them in a different way than I do with my husband. I only wish he had this kind of connection with men. In our relationship, I'm the one more likely to go out once a week and spend time with girlfriends, while he spend no time with his male friends.

I can't wait to read your story about Carnival.

jap21's picture

You lucky girl

In Bolivia women do go out with girlfriends, but not so much, especially when married. Single women go out more in groups. Married women usually don´t get a chance, because their husbands won´t be very open to it. Even if they don´t openly forbid them to do it, in reality they don´t like their wives going out, and women usually stay home a lot.

Tarija is the most beautiful state in Bolivia, with happy and peaceful people who like to party and love to invite everyone to their homes and share wine and local peaches and grapes in this time of the year. All the parades, Comadres parade included, show this as in the parade decoration trucks for example, there are beautiful women and handsome men throwing away grapes and peaches to the people who watch.

Very interesting and nice. Only in Tarija.

Cheers and hugs, thanks for reading.

Jackie

Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America
www.jap21.wordpress.com

malayapinas's picture

Burning Brightly

Hi Jackie! I can imagine the happiness you shared in this very special day of women friendship! I always love going out with women friends, sharing stories and heartaches is always a relief after a very stressful day. Keep the the flame of friendship always burning brightly in your day!

love,
Malaya

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