The Aymara Indian Community Celebrates St. James In Bolivia

Masked dancers parade through the streets during a festival held in honor of Santiago the apostle, known as Saint James in English, the patron saint of the town in Guaqui, Bolivia. In the Bolivian highlands along the shores of Lake Titicaca, this Aymara Indian community celebrates St. James the weekend before his feast day on July 25.

The Aymara Indian community celebrates St. James in the days leading up to his feast day every year with an unusual dance.

On precarious boats floating in a small lagoon, teams of St. James dance aboard the boats fashioned of reeds is said to recall the first African slaves who arrived in this Andean region to work in the mines.

In Guaqui, a little more than 90 kilometers (57 miles) west of La Paz, dancers on Friday celebrated enthusiastically in a test of their luck.

According to tradition, those who fall into the water are expected to have bad luck in the coming year while those who do not fall are not.

"I have much faith, I've been dancing for 25 years out of my devotion to 'Tata' Santiago," said one of the festival organizers, Guillermo Paton, using the Aymara word for "lord" or "sir."

Paton noted the saint's feast day is July 25, but said Guaqui usually celebrates it a few days early.

Here's a gallery of images of the St. James celebration.

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