- Title: Devotees pay honour to skulls in Bolivia a week after All Saints Day
- Date: 8th November 2016
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) PARTICIPANT IN CELEBRATION OF THE "NATITAS" (SKULLS), BERTA MONDACA, SAYING: "She is careful and takes care of the house, takes care of us, she protects us from bad people and she is always with us. She's is a blessed soul."
- Embargoed: 23rd November 2016 18:52
- Keywords: Bolivia Day of Skulls Natitas skulls
- Location: LA PAZ AND EL ALTO, BOLIVIA
- City: LA PAZ AND EL ALTO, BOLIVIA
- Country: Bolivia
- Topics: Religion/Belief,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA00357L5DFN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Bolivians adorned and honoured skulls, called "natitas", on Tuesday (November 8) as part of an ancient tradition rooted in indigenous practices they believe bring good fortune and protection.
The natitas spend most of the year indoors, but on The Day of Skulls they are decorated and paraded to the cemetery a week after All Saints Day.
The tradition is believed to have its roots in the Urus Chipaya custom of disinterring the corpses of loved ones at the one year anniversary of their death.
This tradition, a fusion of Catholic and indigenous beliefs, is usually practised by the some of the country's indigenous groups.
Monica Canaza, a witch doctor, owns 40 skulls in El Alto, on the outskirts of La Paz.
She told Reuters people from as far away as Japan come to see her and to ask her natitas for favours.
"Lawyers, judges and authorities come every Monday from many countries. Most of all they come from Ecuador, Chile and also Japan. They come to light candles, smoke cigars and offer them some refreshments for the natitas, and ask for their wishes," Canaza said while holding a vigil before the celebrations of The Day of Skulls.
Friends and family adorn the skulls with hats and flowers.
Even the skulls of unidentified deceased take part in the party, said Canaza, who says she never leaves her skulls out.
"I like to serve myself some beer with the skulls and when I forget to do so, the natitas get jealous. When I am invited to a party, I ask my natitas for permission to go anywhere. I don't go anywhere without permission from my natitas, sometimes I tell them: "Let's all go out." They are always with me," Canaza said.
The participants give the skulls food and even cigarettes during the festivities.
A participant in the celebration of the "natitas" (skulls), Nelly Luna, has come to pay her respect to Canaza's skulls.
She recently came to ask the natitas to help her find her teen aged daughter, a wish which says the skulls granted her.
"My daughter had been lost for 15 days. She is 16-years-old. And I came here to ask the natitas for help, telling them about my daughter's case and it didn't even take three days for my daughter to return by her own feet to my house," Luna said.
Back at La Paz's Municipal cemetery, participants on Tuesday came out to honour the skulls.
The Roman Catholic Church does not endorse the practice, but when the cemetery's parish refused to open its doors to Day of the Skull believers 12 years ago, they threw stones at the church and broke all the windows.
Now, the parish is open to believers for a blessing ceremony.
"She is careful and takes care of the house, takes care of us, she protects us from bad people and she is always with us. She's is a blessed soul," said Berta Mondaca, who joined in the celebration of the skulls outside.
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.
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