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Catholic saints and mini skirts at the festival of San Juan de Dios in Sucre, Bolivia | Handcarry Only

Catholic saints and mini skirts at the festival of San Juan de Dios in Sucre, Bolivia

Girls in costume san juan de dios sucre bolivia

boy in car with decorations, sucre bolivia

A boy poking his head out of a heavily decorated car following the procession


The loud incessant clanging of cymbals and banging of drums startled me from my afternoon siesta. Momentarily disorientated, my drowsy head took a moment before it registered where I was, our recent spate of bus journeys had blurred the lines between the cities and towns we’ve stayed in.


La ciudad blanca, The White City.

We had arrived a couple of days prior, intending to make this a longer than usual stop to fit in another week of Spanish lessons. The cultural capital of Bolivia and named after revolutionary leader Antonio José de Sucre, the city of Sucre is chock full of colonial architecture and a is rightfully a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perched high up at an elevation of 2810m, the altitude blesses the city with a cool temperate climate all year round.

I shock off the remnants of sleep and wandered over to the window, where the celebratory marching band could be heard just round the corner. Not having a clue what the whole thing was about but not wanting to miss anything, I grabbed my camera and ran out the door.

What greeted me was an absolute riot of colour and costumes, a huge parade of people dancing with multiple marching bands, each trying to outdo each other. Little old ladies in sequins and flashy costumes, men in mythical monster outfits, everyone was just dancing and waltzing their way across town.

A lady standing beside me noticed my fascination and offered,

“La fiesta de San Juan de Dios”

Saint John of God, a 16th century Spanish/Portuguese saint and inspiration behind the worldwide charity Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God, formed by his followers after his death to care for the sick and suffering everywhere, and in particular, those afflicted with mental illnesses, was having his feast day celebrated in Sucre, to great aplomb.

We followed the procession up Calle Junin and towards Plaza Alto de la Alianza, walking though a part of town we hadn’t yet visited. Like a noisy river of gyrating and swaying glitter, the procession flowed uptown with huge crowds of people following alongside.

The dark clouds above threatened above but not a drop fell.


men in strange outfits parade sucre bolivia

The significance of the Yeti outfit was lost on me

beautiful ladies posing parade sucre bolivia

Beautiful ladies posing with a dapper gentleman

old ladies in blue outfit taking a break sucre bolivia

Old ladies taking a break midway through the parade

two young girls in pink dresses during the parade sucre bolivia

young girls taking a break sucre bolivia

Young girls taking a break during a procession sucre bolivia

procession going through town sucre bolivia

The exuberant (and very noisy) procession on calle Junin, through the centre of Sucre

man on french horn playing his heart out, sucre, bolivia

The man on the french horn playing his heart (and lungs) out

girl in golden dress sucre bolivia

I left my job as an advertising Creative Director in August 2012 to travel Africa and South America for a year with my wife, documenting these beautiful places with my Fuji X-Pro1. View the rest of my RTW adventures on Handcarry Only and follow me on my journey by subscribing/following/bookmarking.