Published September 22, 2015
Bolivian Tinku paraders. This photo and all other parade photos by George Newcomb.

Virginia is home to the largest Bolivian-born population in the country. In celebration of Bolivian cultural vitality in the Commonwealth, the Virginia Folklife Program will spotlight the traditions that connect Bolivians young and old at the 2015 Richmond Folk Festival, October 9–11, in downtown Richmond.

In the 1980s, Bolivians began immigrating to the United States in large numbers; by 2010, Virginia was home to more than 31,000 native Bolivians—the largest Bolivian-born population of any state in the country. Bolivians in Virginia include people of indigenous , European, and Afro-Bolivian ancestry. In Arlington especially, Bolivian restaurants, markets, and festivals are well-recognized features of the cultural landscape, as are the many distinctive and highly diverse forms of Bolivian dance. As immigrants, Bolivians are deeply attached to their native rituals and customs, and their culture is thriving in Virginia, even within communities that have lived here for decades. These communities have shown a remarkable resistencia cultural—a refusal to die culturally. Along with this cultural vitality, Bolivians demonstrate a willingness to share their culture with others.

The Virginia Folklife Stage and Area will showcase many facets of Bolivian culture in Virginia, focusing on a few traditions that connect young and old, from sacred religious ceremonies to dazzling dance performances. The highlight of the weekend will be a large-scale traditional Bolivian dance parade which will parade through the festival site on Saturday evening.

“We’re fortunate to have an incredibly large and rich Bolivian culture in the state of Virginia,” says State Folklorist Jon Lohman. “The Virginia Bolivian community is excited to share their culture with others, and we’re delighted our attendees will have the privilege of experiencing these remarkably lively traditions.”

Dance performance groups will include:

  • Fraternidad Cultural Pachamama
  • Fraternidad Alma Boliviana
  • Centro Cultural Bolivia
  • Fraternidad Folklorica Cultural Caporales Universitarios San Simon filial VA
  • Morenada
  • Fundacion Socio Cultural Boliviana

The craft area will include:

  • Julia Garcia, a cultural historian, who will create a Mesa of Remembrance and a Mesa of Worship
  • William Pozo-Zarate, a flute maker who will demonstrate instrument making
  • Nelly Zapata, President of Comite Pro Bolivia, showing costumes and textiles in Folklife Area

The Virginia Folklife Stage and Folklife Area are cosponsored by Union Bank & Trust and the University of Richmond. Other festival sponsors include Altria, Dominion, The Community Foundation, CarMax, VCU and VCU Health System, Genworth, the Richmond Times Dispatch/, WestRock, New Market Corporation, AmTrak, and Loveland.

Richmond Folk Festival is produced by Venture Richmond, in partnership with the City of Richmond, the National Council for the Traditional Arts, the American Civil War Center at Tredegar, the Children’s Museum of Richmond, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

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