A nun takes pictures of a newly unveiled statue of the Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus on Santa Barbara hill in the mining city of Oruro, Bolivia. The 45 meter (147 feet) statue that took four years to build, known in Spanish as "Virgen del SocavÃ³n," or the Virgin of the Tunnel, is Oruro's patron, venerated in particular by miners and folkloric Carnival dancers. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)AP2013
ORURO, Bolivia – Already, the mining city of Oruro in Bolivia rivals Brazil's Rio de Janeiro in its Carnival celebrations for color and culture, if not for size.
And now, the Andean community is looking to compete with Rio's famed Christ the Redeemer statue as well.
On Friday Oruro formally dedicated their new Virgin statue that's a little taller than Rio's Christ as it kicked off its Carnival celebrations, which have been recognized as part of the patrimony of humanity by UNESCO.
The Virgin of Socavon is almost 150 feet (45 meters) high - a shade shorter than New York's Statue of Liberty and 23 feet (seven meters) higher than Rio's image of Christ. It's built of cement, iron and fiberglass to withstand the fierce winds of the high plain.
"If Rio has its Christ and its Carnival, Oruro has it's Carnival, and now it has the Virgin. We're complete," said Virginia Barrios, a neighborhood leader.
She said construction of the statue cost $1.2 million and took four years.
During Carnival each year, more than 30,000 people dance in procession through the streets, some in elaborate costumes, and brass bands blare. They honor the Virgin of Socavon, the patron saint of the city of roughly 250,000 people.
President Evo Morales, who was a musician in Oruro in his youth, participated in the inauguration of the statue and Pope Benedict XVI sent a message of blessing.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.