Bolivia's Day of the Skulls brings out the living and the dead
Bolivians buff up the skulls of their dearly departed to mark annual ritual
Bolivians celebrated on Sunday an ancient tradition rooted in indigenous practices where people adorn and honour skulls, called "natitas", which they believe bring them good fortune and protection.
The natitas spend most of the year indoors, but are traditionally decorated and paraded to the cemetery a week after All Saints Day.
Friends and family adorn the skulls with hats and flowers. They give them food and even cigarettes during the festivities. Even the skulls of unidentified deceased take part in the party, said participant Patricia Llave.
"They are the forgotten souls, they are the souls that don't have flowers. Every Nov. 8, we remove them from their tomb so that we can be with them and share this celebration with them," she said.
As the afternoon wore on, participants danced to honour the skulls. "We dance with devotion and gratitude for all they give us. They have fulfilled many desires. And that's why we honour them," said Rosmery Aquino.
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.
The 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.