Traditional Dances of Bolivia

Looking at various dances from Bolivia, what struck me the most was how colorful their outfits are… layer after layer of woven colors. These are some of their traditional dances:


Tinku dancing is a form of ritualistic combat / dance of Bolivian Aymara origin. In Quechua language, it means “meeting-encounter”. During this ritual, men and women from different communities will meet and begin the festivities by dancing. The women will then form circles and begin chanting while the men proceed to fight each other; rarely the women will join in the fighting as well.

Large tinkus are held in Potosí during the first few weeks of May. traditional Tinku men will fight men with fists, sometimes enhanced by rocks held and even shards of glass wrapped in cloth around their knuckles.

In its dance form, both women and men get down in a an attack stance as they dance. Their arms are thrown out and there are various kicks, while the performers move in circles following the beat of the drum. Every jump from one foot to the next is followed by a hard stomp and a thrown fist to signify the violence from the ceremonial Tinku. In some dances there will be small combats as well but never as violent as the real combat Tinku. They wear hats and the men will wear hats that are reminders of Spanish Conquistador’s hats with huge feathers in the middle.

Wiki Commons: Alejandro Espeche
Cr. Pintarest
Cr. Pintarest
Cr. Pintarest

Notice the Conquistador like hat in him:

Wiki Commons. Cr. CassandraW1

This is a musical group that sings and performs Tinku. They are called Tinkus.

In the following videos you can get a better feel for what the group dances are like:


The Caporales is a traditional Andean dance originated in Los Yungas of La Paz. Caporales were created and presented to the public for the first time in 1969 by the Estrada Pacheco brothers.

They were inspired in the character of the ‘Caporal’ this is the overseer of the black slaves and was usually mixed race, wore boots and held a whip, the dance, however, has a prominent religious aspect. They dance in honor of The Virgin of Socavón (patroness of miners), and promises to dance for three years of one’s life.

This dance is also performed in other South American Countries like: Peru, Chile, Argentina and Spain, to the point that Bolivians felt it necessary to protect their dance through a Supreme Decree.

The men wear heeled boots bearing large “jingle”bells known as “cascabeles”, they also sometimes carry a hat in their left hand and a whip in their right. Even some girls will dance in a male role. The female caporal dress consists of a minidress with matching panties, skin-color pantyhose, fancy high-heeled shoes, and a round top hat pinned to her hair. The style and colors of the dress are maintained the same for both the men and women of a certain group. Men and women usually dance separately in a progressive march style dance.

Here are some photos:

There are many groups of Caporales Groups in the USA. They can be seen in parades and other events. Here is a video of a group called San Simon USA in Maryland:

Their energy is impressive!

And this is a group called the BAFOPAZ (Ballet Folklórico de La Paz) presenting in Poland:


The origin of la “Morenada” is highly contested between Bolivia and Perú, with both having celebrations recognized by the UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage In both countries.

A theory commonly shared says that the dance was inspired by the sufferings of the African slaves brought to Bolivia in order to work in the Silver Mines of Potosí. The enormous tongue of the dark masks is meant to represent the physical state of these mines workers and the rattling of the Matracas are frequently associated with the rattling of the slaves’ chains. However, there is no evidence that these African slaves actually worked in the mines, although there is much evidence that they worked in the Casa de la Moneda (mint) in the production of coins and in domestic service.

A second theory relates the Morenada to the African slaves who settled in the Oruro region for wine production. This theory holds that African slaves made wine in Oruro with grapes collected and transferred from the La Paz valley to be marketed in the mining centers of Oruro. The dance morenada would originate by imitating the treading of the grapes in the Oruro wineries and the barrel-shaped costumes would represent the barrel that contains the wine. At first sight this makes the theory seem extremely unprovable, but the first chants in the Morenada allude to the African slaves who worked in winemaking.

These are some photos:


The Oruro “Diablada” (Devil Dance) dances belong to “masked” most popular of the Bolivian highlands. It is interpreted as the start of the carnival or in processions in honor of a saint “fraternities”, groups that incorporate, in some cases, several hundred participants. Moreover, this dance is understood as “the victory of good over evil.” All the creation myths of Oruro diablada reference samples and there are paintings that allude to the dance from the time of pre-Columbian America.

There are two important types of myths: one related to the town of Urus, one of the oldest ethnic groups in South America. Their descendants, about 1500 and known as Uru-Chipaya, live near Lake Poopo in Oruro, in the Puno region, where they also have a few individuals belonging to that people. According to oral tradition, these people were saved by the appearance of the “divine nusta” Inti Wara who freed them from the plagues sent by the wrath of the fearsome god Huari (Wari).

The other myth creators reveal the relationship between Chiru-Chiru / Nina Nina, a sort of “Robin Hood Andean”, and the Virgin of Candelaria or Our Lady of the Tunnel whose image appeared “miraculously” in a silver mine in the late 18th century. Another benchmark are the riches hidden inside the mines and the related exploitation by the miners.

The Diablada is accompanied by band and orchestra. The uniformity of the suits brought choreographic innovation, with the layout of steps, movements, and figure designs that are not only ready to be staged in open areas such as roads, streets, and public squares; but also in places such as theaters and arenas. At the start of the krewe are Lucifer and Satan with several China Supay, or devil women. They are followed by the personified seven deadly sins of pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. Afterwards, a troop of devils come out. They are all led by Saint Michael, with a blouse, short skirt, sword, and shield.

During the dance, angels and demons are constantly moving around while forming somewhat complex figures such as crosses and circles. This confrontation between the two sides is eclipsed when Saint Michael appears, battles, and defeats the Devil. Both characters are dressed in heavy costumes that are highly ornate and finely wrought. The weight of the costume is more of a challenge than an obstacle for the different dance groups. The dancers often attempt to make unique and complex choreographies. The result is a colorful dance, creating a show very much appreciated by the public.

Cr. Wiki Commons: Bjaglin

I am somewhere between so impressed and creeped out! These remind me of the devils I used to see in the Carnaval of Carupano, the best Carnaval Parade in Venezuela. This is a compilation of the Carnival of Oruro. Must be so impressive to see this in person:

And with this, I take my leave on a very high note… of goodness! Common Archangel Michael! You’ve got this!

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