Each August, for three days around the 15th, Quillacollo, a town near Cochabamba, becomes a hive of activity. From early morning until late at night dozens of dance and music groups parade through the streets, making their way to the church in their most extraordinary outfits to pay their respects to the Virgin of Urkupiña.
Get there early to secure a seat as thousands will flood the stands to admire the spectacle. One thing you won’t have to worry about is food and drinks. While it is forbidden to sell alcohol during the festival (to prevent drunkenness and ensuing problems) vendors continuously walk around selling their wares. Here is what you can expect.
For the Thirsty
Vendors are selling bottled drinking water and soda, kept cool in insulated boxes with ice. Or ask a vendor to press you a fresh orange juice. When you drink it on the spot you can ask for a ‘yapito’ and she will pour you a little extra free of charge.
For a Fresh Bite
Fruit but no fruit juice? Surely a vendor will pass by offering chunks of (water) melon or pineapple.
For the Sweet Tooth
Combine the fruit with something sweeter: a coating of sugar. Toffee apples are among the street snacks you’ll come across throughout the country. Bolivians also love sweet treats and outside the area where the parade takes place, vast stalls display all kinds of cookies, merengues, and alfajores (type of shortbread cookie). To make sure you won’t miss her delicacies this woman passes along the stands as well.
For the Overheated
The Urkupiña Festival is in August; it's hot (bring sun lotion and a hat!). Luckily there is ice cream, lots of it. You will find traditionally styled, freshly prepared ice creams made from fruit, as well as the manufactured types of ice cream cones. Wait, there is more – you can’t visit Bolivia and not enjoy a copito de nieve – a snow cone! The shaved ice cream comes with brightly colored, super sweet syrups on top.
For a Savory Bite
Tired of all that sweet stuff? Find these vendors, selling roasted nuts, habas fritas (deep fried or roasted fava beans) or homemade potato chips.
For the Hungry
To eat a proper meal you will have to leave the stands and find your way to a restaurant. Fortunately, you can count on Bolivia having vendors selling salchipapas: french fries with sausage.