Here in the Cochabamba Valley, eight thousand feet high in the mountains, that celebration runs a full week. It includes parades, daylong processions of dozens of dancing groups that keep vibrant and alive Bolivia's dramatic dance traditions. The costumes range from tall-feathered hats from the jungle to "La Diablada", in which dancers act out a dramatic battle between the devil and an army of archangels. Urqupiña also includes religious practices, in which traditional Catholicism is mixed completely with the indigenous traditions of chewing coca leaves, copious intake of "chicha" (the local drink of fermented corn) and honoring "La Pachamama" (Mother Earth).

The Crowd in the Dark

But for me, nothing is as dramatic as walking down a dark highway at four in the morning with 100,000 people. Along the way vendors have set up small tables selling hot pastries, fruit, coffee, and a warm drink made of corn ("api"). Off in the distance we catch a glimpse of an eerie pulsating luminescent Mary, which as we get close to it turns out to be made of plastic and mounted to the top of a pedestrian bridge that arches over the highway.

As dawn rises up the sun behind us, we can see the full mass of people stretching as far as the eye can see, all of us headed to

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