Every third week of August, Bolivians flock to the Virgin of Urkupina festival in Quillacollo. Here they buy miniature objects, in the belief that they will receive the real objects in the future as blessings. Everything is to be found in miniature: houses, cars, babies, food, certificates, money, visas, flight tickets etc. This ritual leads to many questions like: Who is Urkupina? Why does she give blessings? What’s the skinny on buying miniatures? And does this really work?
Who is Urkupina and Why Does She Give Blessings?
This was the first question that came to mind when I discovered this ritual. There are several legends. However, the most common is that of a poor shepherd girl that saw the Virgin Mary appear while flocking sheep upon a hillside near Quillacollo. The Virgin told the girl to gather stones and bring them to her family. Following the orders of the Virgin, the girl gathered several stones and carried them home. Reaching home, the stones had turned to silver. Resulting in that the girl and her family were pulled out of poverty. When others asked the little girl about the Virgin and where she was, the shepherd girl responded in the native language of Quechua, “Urqupiña”. Meaning, she is already in the hill.
Bolivians believe the Virgin of Urkupina will bless them if they go to the place the little shepherd girl observed her in the dates. They take out pieces of stone from the hillside believing it will bring them luck. In addition they buy the object or status they desire to get in the future.
Buying Miniature Items at Virgin of Urkupina festival in Quillacollo
However, it is important that after purchase the object goes through a little ceremony over the traditional K’oa. Here the blessing is asked for the specific person buying the object.
The objects can be miniature vegetables for a bounty of food in your house the upcoming year. Dollar bills for prosperity. You can also buy certificates of marriage, job, good health, and university degrees. But that’s not all, you can buy miniature stores for a businesses, houses, and cars which is very common. Want to travel? You can buy suitcases with a visa and passport in it.
You can also go to the church asking the priest to bless you with holy water.
Testimonies from People that Attended the Virgin of Urkupina festival in Quillacollo
Several people I have met in Bolivia, claim they actually got what they asked for the same year after buying the miniature objects. Some surprised, as they did not believe in this tradition.
Veronica, is a woman I met on the bus on the way to the festival. She told me the following:
The first three years of my marriage I could not get pregnant. I lived in Italy at that time. My mother bought a miniature baby doll, and sent it to me in the mail. Within one year I was pregnant. My mother and I are evangelist so we do not really believe in this. But the weird thing was that my daughter looks just like that miniature baby doll that my mother sent me. The eyes, the hair, really different from mine.”
A close friend of mine, named Vanessa told a similar story:
My husband and I did not want to have babies yet. However, my cousin bought be a miniature baby during the Urkupina. I did not want to receive it, but she had put many USD bills around it, so I accepted it. And a few months later I was pregnant.“ Vanessa is going to have her baby in just a few weeks.
While Maria, an indigenous poor woman who grew up in the tradition believing in the Virgin of Urkupina told me:
Last year I bought a miniature flight ticket to Argentina. And the same year, I went to Argentina. In flight! Can you imagine, in flight! If you buy something you will see you will get it. You will get it fast”.
Other woman and non-believer named Gladys shared her story:
For many years I could not take out my title from the university. I bought a certificate from the university during Urkupina, and three months later I had my title”.
Furthermore, many people travel all the way from Spain, the US and Argentina to take part of this event. Haivng bought their visas and passports in miniature during this festival. Later, they actually got the visa to travel abroad, bringing them back to thank the Virgin of Urkupina for this.
So, Does it Work?
My husband who is Bolivian, has actually never attended this festival as he did not believe in it. However, last year we went of curiosity. We bought everything we wanted for the next year. A house, car, 10.000 USD, and certificates for good health. For me a certificate for work. For my husband, a visa and flight ticket to Norway.
I have to admit that we did not really believe in this. However, now five months later we have a car and an apartment. We have money and good health. I did not get my job however, I was offered one as English teacher here in Bolivia. My husband got his dream job though! The visa and flight ticket for my husband still remains, but it looks like that will happen soon as well!
The miniature objects you buy and the stones you take out should be returned the next year, when you have received the blessing and objects you asked for. So it seems like I have to take a trip back to the church of Quillacollo soon and return the miniature objects we bought and so thankfully received!