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Other ancient ritual


Last November 7th. It took place an ancient ritual ceremony at the main public graveyard in La Paz, Bolivia. Lots of people taking in their hands skulls enter the graveyard. In some cases, these are the skulls from a member of the family, in other cases they were found at a graveyard or they were taken from an ancient grave called “chullperio”.
Skulls are beautifully adorned with a kind of crown of flowers, some of them wear hats and glasses. Skulls have names and generally people asks their names before offering them flowers or candles.
The owners of these skulls say that it is good to have a skull at home because he or she protects to all members of the family. After the visit to the graveyard, owners of the skulls offer a party.
A historical document of sixteen century says that November was known as the month to take dead people. Part of this document says, "This month dead people are taken from the places where they used to be put called pucullo, they are given food and drink, they are dressed with the best clothes, plumes are put on their heads and people sing and dance with them. After being taken from house to house, along the streets and squares, they are returned to theis pucullus, giving food for the main ones in gold plate..."
The third picture shows the way it is used to be done this ritual long time ago.




LindsayHowells's picture


Thank you for sharing the traditions of you culture. I agree with you that it is so important to understand others' cultures to become a more compassionate person in the world. I think sharing specific traditions like the one you have shared is a fantastic way to really get a glimpse of understanding into the way another sees the world!

I think in the United States often times death is looked on in a very negative way. Obviously it is sad to loose the physical form of the ones you love, but it is also a part of life, a transition that should be respected. I believe that I have not lost the relationship with my loved ones that have passed on, but rather that that relationship has changed forms. The tradition you have shared sounds like a beautiful way to keep that relationship alive.

There was a little bit of discussion a while ago on PulseWire about forming a group where we shared stories and traditions of our culture as a way to give insight to others about where we come from and create better dialogue based on common understanding. Would you be interested in such a group? Maybe we can rekindle that idea!

Thank you!


CristinaQuisbert's picture

Hello Lindsay,

It could interesting to know about traditions in different countries. If it is possible to open a group related with this topic I would like to participate.
Rituals practiced during this month in andean culture are certainly a way to keep a link with our ancestors, something repeated anually.

Thanks a lot,

LindsayHowells's picture

New group

Hola Cristina,

I just got a group set up to talk about traditions and cultural/familial stories! Its called Giving Context to our Conversations. I am very excited and would love it if you could join. Maybe you could repost these journal entries to the group to give people ideas for what they could talk about from their own lives.

Gracias! Espero que tengo mucha oportunidad hablar mas con usted y ver mucho mas fotos!


jadefrank's picture


Hi Cristina,

Thank you for sharing more of your culture in Bolivia and your ancestral traditions. I am fascinated by the practice of dressing your deceased family members' skulls up beautifully to honor their lives. As Lindsay mentioned, in the United States death if rarely celebrated. To celebrate the life of your loved ones and friends who have passed away seems a much healthier way to deal with your loss. I hope that people in North America can be influenced by this practice of our South American neighbors. Your pictures are wonderful and I love seeing them here on the site.



CristinaQuisbert's picture

Hello Jade,

It is a way of looking at life. In general when a relative passes away with the time people forgets but welcoming each year our ancestors is a moment of hapiness.


Dave Alexander's picture

Among the Young Today

Hello Cristina,

Thank you for sharing more about the traditions of your people, particularly the honoring of ancestors. I am a person who grew up without religion. I was eight years old when my grandfather died. He died only about an hour from my home, but I was not allowed to attend his funeral. Like Lindsay and Jade share, the European originated American culture tends to deny death, and hide away our elders.

For many years I lived in New Mexico, USA. There many traditions are practiced within the Hispanic and Native American cultures. Very few people outside the culture can attend. Each have strong traditions about the ancestors and about the seasons too. When I worked with young people there, I noticed that they were becoming impatient with the traditions. They did not see the purpose or benefit and, therefore, often resented their pressured attendance.

You seem very much different than this. What do you see as the relationship between young people and tradition in the area of Bolivia where you live?

In Friendship, Dave...

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi

CristinaQuisbert's picture


In rural area generally young people keep and are part of traditions. But as there are a lot of foreign influences, young people is also pushed to forget some of the traditions mainly in urban areas.
Bolivia is divided in nine areas and within them there are different indigenous peoples with their own practices and traditions, but there is also a percentaje of non indigenous people.
There is a lot of young people who identifies with his or her culture but there are also others who probably feel ashamed because of discrimination and racist attitudes of non indigenous people.

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