One weekend a year, the miners of Potosi down their tools and let their hair down for a mammoth party. And in this mining town, everyone celebrates!
The miners, and the families of miners, prepare their colourful costumes and learn their dances weeks in advance. Each mining co-operative marches and dances together.
We joined the fiesta immediately after our tour of the mines.
It took about 5 minutes before Nina got hit the first time:
We learned very quickly that apart from the dancing miners and lots of drinking, another big theme of the carnival was wetting other people, especially girls, in any way possible: magic spray, water balloons, water pistols! And as the day wore on, the chances of getting hit rose dramatically.
The modus operandi was typically as follows:
- boy would walk past, acting very innocent, but looking out of the corner of his eye
- boy would wait for the moment when you thought you were safe
- boy would surprise you with a spray, usually directed at the face
- boy would look back with a cheeky grin on his face, surveying the damage (and expecting a smile from you in return)
Now, that is what usually happened. Sometimes there was no warning whatsoever. Men of all ages would sometimes join in. Often groups of boys would team up, launching a blitzkrieg combination of magic spray, water balloons and water pistols. There was no escape if they had you in their sights. Eventually we bought a bottle of magic spray to defend ourselves, which sometimes acted as a deterrent, and other times encouraged them in what became a game of mutually-assured-destruction.
It was quite usual to see girls dancing with bottles of magic spray, ready to defend themselves against marauding boys who often try to wet them!
One amazing thing was how long everyone danced for – it seemed like they were dancing for almost 2 days, with only short rests! The dancing miners were looking very tired by the end of the second day. Unfortunately, the children with the water had more than enough energy to make up for it…!