Festival of the Virgin de la Candelaria en Bolivia

Festival de La Virgen de La Candelaria en Bolivia

For Bolivian believers and worshipers around the world, the Virgen de la Candelaria Festival is one of the most important religious festivities they celebrate in Latin America.

Every February the 2nd and August the 5th, the so called “Patron Saint of Bolivia” gathers hundreds of believers in a spectacular festival of colors, tradition and culture.

The Festival of the Virgin de la Candelaria en Bolivia happens in the Copacabana peninsula by the shore of Lake Titicaca, one of the world’s largest lakes and former home of the Inca Tribe.

The music and traditional dancers invade the streets to commemorate the arrival of the Virgen to the city of Copacabana more than five hundred years ago and, even though the Virgen never leaves the Sanctuary, the believer’s and traveler’s faith invades the city with the spirit of celebration and joy.

What Is the Legend About?

Festival de La Virgen de La Candelaria en Bolivia

Festival de La Virgen de La Candelaria en Bolivia

According to legend, Francisco Tito Yupanqui was an amateur sculptor who wished with all his might to create an image worthy of veneration while reflecting on Mary’s beauty. The virgin after many prayers, granted Francisco the miracle of artistic grace. His ability which led him to create the image which we know today as the Virgen de la Candelaria or Señora de Copacabana.

Like many invocations of the Virgin, this one adapts to its location and inhabitants. It borrows their facial features and presents herself with the garb of an Inca princess, whose cult achieved the unity of the worship of the sun, earth and moon which the ancient Incas professed, into a new form of faith.

Every February the 2nd at this small village located 140 kms from the Bolivian capital, Inca folklore and Catholic faith blend in a wonderful celebration where travelers bring their offerings to the Virgen and the gods of the lake.

The magic happens every ocassion in this town regardless of the passage of time and conquest that since then, preserves its misticism and magical charm. The “Pacha Mama” or “Mother Earth” is now the Virgin Mary.

Since 1538, travelers from all around the world attend the Festival of the Virgin de la Candelaria en Bolivia yearly, and its devotion spread to Argentina, Perú, Colombia, Brazil, Spain and Venezuela where the devotees celebrate the Virgen and exhibit their culture and tradition in spite of being far away from their magical land.

When to Visit the Festival of the Virgin de la Candelaria en Bolivia

To visit Copacabana on February the 2nd or August the 5th is a unique experience for the traveler because the celebration is full of mysticism, tradition, ancient rituals and customs.

The town is going 500 years in time to celebrate with the Incas in their magical lake. This tradition means dancing to the rythm of ancient flutes and drums among colorful costumes and masks of gods and taking a journey alongside a whole village in the unattainable quest of the “Light” of the Candelaria. The virgin in return, year after year, guides the path taking them to safe harbor under her mantle of. It is in a few words, an unforgettable experience.

Is There Such a Thing as a Hispanic Jew?

My great grand mother who would say the rosary every afternoon, would have me memorize the family surnames in the form of a poem, and she would conclude her story by telling my 7 year old self, in Spanish, "remember you are a Jew." Grand parents, parents said she was crazy. Well, DNA, and research in Mexico & Toledo Spain proved her correct. Sephardic we are.

For many people, the idea of a Hispanic Jew may be a new concept. “But aren’t most Hispanics Catholic?”

While it’s true that the large majority of Hispanics identify as Catholic, there are large and established Jewish populations throughout Latin America.

Numerous well-known Latinos are in fact Latino Jews: actors Mario Kreutzberger (Don Francisco), William Levy, and Freddie Prinze, director Alejandro Jodorowsky, and politicians such as Venezuelan Henrique Capriles and former presidents Francisco Henríquez (Dominican Republic) and Ricardo Maduro (Honduras).

The history of Hispanic Jews begins, not surprisingly, with Jews in Spain. Due to its proximity to the Middle East, the Iberian Peninsula has had Jewish communities since Biblical times.

Much as Central European Jews spoke Yiddish, Sephardic Jews – in Hebrew, Sephardim, or “Jews of Spain” – spoke Ladino, a Romance language derived from Old Spanish.

The Iberian Peninsula was, in fact, a region where Jews were able to practice their religion in relative freedom, particularly during the Reconquista under Muslim rule. This tolerance led to increased Jewish immigration, and during this time the community grew and prospered.

The end of the Reconquista and the unification of Spain under the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella brought an end to the tolerance of the Jewish religion in the Iberian Peninsula.

In 1492, a two-hundred year period of increasing aggression against the Jews, including forced conversions and massacres, culminated in the Edict of Expulsion.

The Edict of Expulsion ordered all Jews in Spain to convert to Christianity or leave the kingdom within four months. Those who chose to leave were not allowed to take gold, silver, or money.

The Expulsion resulted in a mass exodus and a multitude of forced converts or conversos, as well as the slaughter of both remaining Jews and many who chose to convert, as their conversions were not considered sincere.

My great grand mother who would say the rosary every afternoon, would have me memorize the family surnames in the form of a poem, and she would conclude her story by telling my 7 year old self, in Spanish, "remember you are a Jew." Grand parents, parents said she was crazy. Well, DNA, and research in Mexico & Toledo Spain proved her correct. Sephardic we are.

My great grand mother who would say the rosary every afternoon, would have me memorize the family surnames in the form of a poem, and she would conclude her story by telling my 7 year old self, in Spanish, “remember you are a Jew.” Grand parents, parents said she was crazy. Well, DNA, and research in Mexico & Toledo Spain proved her correct. Sephardic we are.

It is estimated that as many as half of those Jews who fled Spain went to Portugal; however, their refuge there didn’t last long, as only five years later Jews in Portugal were also forced to leave.

Exiled Jews emigrated throughout the region, with many eventually making their way to Latin America. There were even Jews on Columbus’s journey to the New World!

Four hundred years later, yet another forced migration let to an increase in the number of Jews in Latin America: the rise of Nazi Germany.

While in general Latin American countries did not proactively support Jews fleeing Europe prior to the onset of World War II, the mass murder of European Jews did lead many to increase immigration quotas, issue passports and visas, and accept refugees.
The Latin-American region was also a significant destination for Holocaust survivors, with 20,000 choosing to immigrate to Latin America.

Decades later, a significant number of Cuban Jews emigrated to the U.S. when Fidel Castro came to power.

Currently, there are about 500,000 Jews in Latin America. In the U.S., around 5% of Hispanics are religiously Jewish.

Cities with large populations of Hispanic Jews have seen an increase in their communities in recent years. In Miami, for example, the Latino Jewish adult population grew 57% in the last ten years.

Perhaps most surprising to Hispanics themselves is the discovery that their ancestors were Sephardic Jews that were forced to leave Spain.

For many Hispanics, although their families are Catholic or Protestant, certain family traditions, such as lighting candles and celebrating the dead, make more sense in the context of the Jewish faith.

The history of Jews in Spain also continues to have impacts in terms of immigration. As of 2014, anyone who can prove they are a descendant of Sephardic Jews can apply for a Spanish passport.

Although there are no more than 45,000 Jews currently living in Spain (0.1% of the population), as many as 3.5 million Hispanic Jews could apply under the new law.

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ABOUT HISPANIC JEWS?  LEAVE A COMMENT AND START THE DISCUSSION.

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