The Eq'eq'o

The Eq'eq'o is the pre-Columbian god of fortune, sex and abundance. Before the Incas, in the ancient times of the Tiwanakan Civilization which ruled some 3000 years over Bolivia, Peru, northern Chile and Argentina, the Eq'eq'o was attributed many mystical powers, one of which was the ability to rule over elements and the reapings of harvest. Thusly, he was worshipped daily and celebrated during the summer solstice, which in the southern hemisphere happens in late December. On the 24th, with the arrival of harvest came material prosperity and human fecundity. Anthropomorphic figurines with phallic attributes made of clay, black basalt and gold were created in honor of the Eq'eq'o and the Aymaras of Tiwanaku celebrated unions between men and women, ensuring them the favors of their god : luck, prosperity and fecundity.

Colonization and Belief

More than half a century after the collapse of Tiwanaku came the Spanish conquest and colonial period. Catholicism became Bolivia’s official religion and yet the Aymaras kept on honoring and praying to the Andean gods when asking for health and fortune. In the Bolivian folklore, and more specifically, in Aymaran mythology, the Eq'eq'o continued to have a very significant importance. During the short-lived indigenous uprising of Tupac Katari in 1781, the celebration of the Alacitas, in honor of the Eq'eq'o, became once more deeply imbeded in Bolivian customs but this caused a bit of upheaval in the Catholic Church and was considered a pagan ceremony. The Spanish priests decided nevertheless to incorporate the ritual as their own, changing the date from the 24th of December to the 24th of January and calling it "Fiesta de la Virgen de La Paz" to give it a bit of a Christian twist. The representation of the Eq'eq'o also underwent changes and was turned into a small Buddha-like figure with rosy cheeks, mouth wide open and carrying a basket full of goodies. Come to think of it, he now pretty much looks like santa-claus dressed in a poncho.

The Modern Deity

Even now, Bolivians of all descent and creed keep an Eq'eq'o in their bedroom, and to keep it happy it is believed that one has to put a cigarette in his mouth, once in a while. People offer him coins in order to obtain money, grains when asking for prosperous harvest, and some food to ensure happiness in general. As tradition goes, a person is not supposed to buy the Eq'eq'o for themselves or it won't fulfill its mission. It has to be given as a present.

Another tradition which has lived on is the Alacitas on the 24th of January. It is a national holiday and for a week, a huge market spreads across many streets and parks in central La Paz. On these days it is customary to buy miniatures of everything one would like to own that year. One can buy reduced versions and replicas of practically anything, from houses, food and small stacks of 100 dollar bills, to passports and plane tickets, to tiny computers and tiny cigarettes equipped with tiny matches. Universities make thumb-sized fake diplomas and Bolivian newspapers produce their miniature edition in which they write in small print sarcastic articles and rants they would never allow themselves to write otherwise.

People buy and gather all these miniature tokens in a basket and then proceed to take it to the Yatiri * so she or he can perform the rituals and chants to persuade Eq'eq'o to make all these wishes come true. It is believed that to be most effective the ritual should be done at noon, but I suppose not everyone is the same in the eyes of the Eq'eq'o because even though I performed all these every year he never got me that NASA rocket I wanted! Thanks anyway old man.

* Yatiris are the traditional sorcerers of the Aymara society, men or women believed to have been struck by lightning and who, as a result, are capable of conversing with the elders, the gods, and the dead.

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