At Llanes’s Chapel in the Cemetery General, in the Bolivian capital, over 10,000 people congregate for the FIESTA DE LAS ÑATITAS. Skulls wearing dark glasses are placed next to the altar and in rows in front of the pews; musicians stroll the cemetery grounds playing songs to please the skulls.
The skulls are capped with hydrangeas and roses. Bagfuls of flowers dropping in the handfuls amongst the grinning skulls. November 8 is the Fiesta de las Natitas, or Day of the Skulls, The locals believe each person has seven souls, “and one of them stays with the skull.” Some skulls are given wool hats, others have cotton pressed into their eye sockets to provide sight and many enjoy cigarettes and cigars lit and poked into their grinning mouths.
They are all crowned by wreaths of flowers, huge crowns of fresh flora, and placed in carved shrines or carried in litt¬ers before the service mass.
The skulls are called ñatitas – “the little pug-nosed ones”. Back in the devotee’s homes, they are kept in shrines, Offerings involving candles, coca leaves and cigarettes and talk to their families through dreams & visions.
“Scarcely, in truth, is a graveyard ever encroached upon, for any purpose, to any great extent, that skeletons are not found in postures which suggest the most fearful of suspicions”. Edgar Allen Poe