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The Ekeko is the Tiwanakan god of abundance and prosperity in the mythology and folklore of the people from the Andean Altiplano. The current representation corresponds to a reinterpretation made by the artisan Isidro Choquehuanca as a gift for an employee of the Governor and Commanding Officer of the city of La Paz, Bolivia, Sebastian Segurola.


The name Ekeko comes from the alteration of the original term Ekhako or Eqaqo, popularized as Ekhekho which was the ancient god of fortune and prosperity in the Collasuyu. The Ekhako was often invoked when a disgrace disturbed their homes.


Pre-Columbian references

The scholar Ernesto Cavour in his book Alasitas, makes reference to anthropomorphic and zoomorphic stone, mud and gold figures that were found in the areas belonging to the Bolivian departments of La Paz, Oruro and Potosi. Cavour considers that these figures were made using basalt extracted from the pre-Columbian mines in the shores of the Lake Poopo and andesite from the Copacabana peninsula.

Carlos Ponce Sangines, for his part, focus his researches in the anthropomorphic figures with phalic elements and prominent humps which, in his opinion, go back to the Inca civilization and, according to his observations, they would correspond to the predecessors of the colonial Ekeko.

The historian Antonio Paredes Candia considers that these figures would be the remains of ancient sacred festivities during the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. Arthur Posnansky also observes that in dates near the 22 December, in the Tiwanaku culture, the population used to worship their deities to ask for good luck, offering miniatures of what they wished to have or achieve.

Alasitas fair origins

Based on Posnansky's observations, the manufacture of miniatures would have its origins in the pre-Columbian era and the Alasitas fair would have its first urban expressions in the early years of the founding of La Paz, specifically, when its founders moved it from Laja in the shores of the Choqueyapu River. During that occasion, Juan Rodriguez ordered the celebration of a mass where Spanish and Indigenous people participated, the latter wanted to contribute by bringing small stone idols and miniatures exchanging them for stone coins .

During the 1781 siege of La Paz, Sebastian Segurola re-established the celebration moving it from October to 24 January, as a gesture of gratitude towards Our Lady of Peace, the holy figure from which the city of La Paz was named. The transactions were made with the same stone coins and slowly the cult to the Ekeko was reintroduced and he appeared for the first time modelled in cast.


The Ekeko is depicted as a man with a mustache wearing traditional Andean clothes (especially the poncho) and completely loaded with bags and baskets with grain and food, (compare with the cornucopia of some Greco-Roman deities), household objects, and currency bills, and basically anything that a person is thought to want / need to have a comfortable and prosperous life ; he is commonly found as a little statue to be put in some place of the house, preferably a comfortable one, but also as an amulet holding from key rings; modern statues of the god include a circular opening in his mouth to place there a cigarette (better if lit) for Ekeko's pleasure. Latest tradition has the Ekeko "smoke" a lit cigarette (hence the rounded mouth) once a year to ensure a full year of prosperity.

Many households have the small stature version of the Ekeko. Traditionally a person is not supposed to buy an Ekeko for themselves or it won't fulfill its mission. It has to come as a present from somebody else. People offer him banknotes and/or coins to obtain money, grains for a good harvest, and some food to ensure prosperity in general. Ekeko is also known in other zones of Argentina due to immigration and internal migrations, but there his followers, who adopted him as a superstition more than as a folkloric deity, consider him as some kind of beneficent patron.

Ekeko's Legend

The legend of the Ekeko, as narrated by Antonio Diaz Villamil, dates around 1781 in La Paz, Bolivia.

At this time, the city of La Paz was under siege by indigenous people, who were still in war with Spanish forces.

The story of the origin of the Ekeko starts with Paulita Tintaya, who was working for Dona Josefa Ursula de Rojas Foronda in La Paz.

She was in love with Isidoro Choquewanca. She left the hacienda were both grew up, and he gave her a small statue to protect her. This small statue was the Ekeko, which was known to Andean people to be a god of fortune and luck.

At the time of this siege, people was starving to death. Isidoro was enrolled in the indigenous army. He manage to reach Paulina's house, and left her food near the statue. Both Paulina and her boss, Dona Josefa were able to survive the siege because of the food left near the statue by Isidoro.

Ekeko as central part of Alasitas

The Alasitas festival is held for, and hosted by, the Ekeko, each January 24 and sprawls along many streets and parks in central La Paz and smaller events are held in many neighborhoods around the city. People attend the event from all over the city and even travel from other cities inside Bolivia to buy miniature versions of goods they would like to give to somebody else. These goods can be blessed by any one of the many women or mostly men acting as shaman. It is believed that if somebody gives you a miniature version, you will get the real object in the curse of the following year. Examples of goods that can be bought are household items, food, computers, construction materials, cell phones, houses, cars, university diplomas and even figures of domestic workers, if you want to employ one the following year.

Throughout other regions the festival for the Ekeko is held in October and known by the name "'Calvario'". This spring festival also celebrates the "'abundance'" or fecundity of humanity. Governor Segurota moved it to January in La Paz after a military victory.

Ekeko controversy

In 2009, Bolivia claimed sole ownership of the Ekeko. Peru, on the other hand, argued that the Ekeko was a bi-national icon representative of Andean culture.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Ekeko

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