On Wednesday 16 August 2023, on the occasion of the Assumption, Thaki Voyage celebrates the incredible Fiesta de la Virgen de Urkupiña in Quillacollo.
Located on the outskirts of Cochabamba, the town welcomes a huge crowd of musicians, dancers and pilgrims every year from 14 to 16 August, all gathered to commemorate the Virgin of Urkupiña.
This celebration, based on a Marian legend, features a young shepherdess, reminiscent of the story of Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes.
Since 1700, this tradition has been glorified by the entire Bolivian community, giving the event all the importance it deserves. Today, it has become one of the most spectacular religious and folk festivals not only in Bolivia, but also in South America!
Where does the legend of the Virgin of Urkupiña come from?
Like Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal and Guadalupe in Mexico, to name but a few places of worship, the town of Quillacollo was also the site of a Marian apparition several centuries ago, as it was on its hills that the Virgin of Urkupiña appeared.
Thaki Voyage tells the story. According to legend, the Virgin appeared to a young shepherdess on the low hills of the Cota region. This apparition took place several times at the foot of Mount Calvario, when the girl was looking after her sheep.
However, as this encounter became more and more frequent, it caused the young girl to lose time and delay her work, which intrigued her parents. When she told them that the Virgin Mary appeared regularly and spoke to her, her parents, who did not believe her, wanted to know what was really going on. It was during their surprise visit that the parents, along with several villagers, saw the Virgin rise into heaven and witnessed the miracle for themselves.
Seeing the Virgin rise into the air, the young girl cried out in Quechua: “Jaqaypiña urqupiña, urqupiña”, meaning “there, on the hill”, thus giving her name to the Virgin of Urkupiña.
At the top of the hill, the villagers later found the stone statue of the Virgin, which can now be seen in the Matriz temple in Quillacollo, now a pilgrimage centre.
It is interesting to note that devotion to the Virgin of Urkupiña is not confined to Bolivia, since it extends to neighbouring Andean countries, as well as Spain, home to a large South American community.
What can I ask the Virgin of Urkupiña?
Do you remember our article on El Ekeko in January 2023? If you read it again, you’ll see that there are a few similarities with the Virgin of Urkupiña!
In fact, she is considered to be the Virgin of abundance, to whom it is possible to ask for favourable conditions for work or health; that’s why for years thousands of faithful have been praying, dancing and singing to her to entrust their wishes or to thank her for wishes that have already been granted.
Personal requests are made as well as communal ones, particularly during the main mass on 15 August, when the departmental and municipal authorities make requests for unity and strength in the temple of San Ildefonso de Quillacollo, with the aim of bringing Bolivians together. It was the archbishop of Cochabamba who invited the parishioners to work together to create a society of peace and brotherhood. In doing so, he asked for the help of the Virgin Mary, who is seeking to bring everyone together.
During the festival, Indian traditions and Catholic rites are closely linked, which is why the Virgin of Urkupiña is recognised as the patron saint of integration.
Between devotion and fervour, experience the splendours of the Festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña
While you’re in Cochabamba, to which we’ll be dedicating a fine article in September, don’t hesitate to visit the sanctuary of the Virgin in the heart of the town of Quillacollo, 13 km from the exciting “capital” of the Highlands.
But it would be even better if you could attend the spectacular Festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña and discover its festive atmosphere, similar to that of the Oruro Carnival, which we already reported on in February.
Traditional dancers and musicians come from all over the country to take part in the procession of the Virgin. Around 60,000 people take part over 3 days, dressed in sublimely colourful costumes and masks.
This festival is also an opportunity to enjoy the gastronomic flavours of Bolivia, refreshing yourself with chicha, a drink made from fermented maize, or garapiña, a famous spicy blend of chicha, cinnamon and coconut.
And how does the Festival work?
Our Lady’s feast day, the official day of commemoration, is celebrated on 15 August. However, the festival is spread over several days from 14 to 16 August.
On the 14th, folkloric parades of dancers are organised until dawn. More than 50 fraternities are accompanied by musical groups.
On the 15th, Assumption Day, an official mass was held in the church of San Ildefonso in Quillacollo, attended by the country’s highest ecclesiastical authorities. Afterwards, the image of the Virgin Mary is presented in a procession through the streets of the town centre, so take the opportunity to admire it – it’s superb!
Finally, on 16 August, the festivities come to a close with a popular pilgrimage to Cota hill, where the Virgin of Urkupiña first appeared.
Come and join in the festivities in the town of Quillacollo! Numerous commemorative events are held in honour of the Virgin of Urkupiña during July and August. But the central days of 14, 15 and 16 August are undoubtedly the best.
Between parades and festivities, you too can commemorate the legend of the Virgin’s discovery! Thaki Voyage will be delighted to help you organise this trip and your future holidays.