LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) – Believers light his cigarette and leave tiny objects to the statue of the chubby little man with a big mustache who embodies their dreams, hopes and faith.
Dressed in traditional Andean clothing, including a woolen cap tied beneath his chin, this is Ekeko, deity of abundance and prosperity, and is invoked by believers to assure their material well-being during a festival known as Alasitas held every Jan. 24 in La Paz.
Ekeko is also revered in Peru and the high plateau Andean regions of other neighboring countries.
"With much faith, I have bought my car, my little house," Virginia Fernandez said of the miniature items she got. "God mediates to make it come true."
The faithful believe that if you obtain a miniature version of the item you desire that you will get the real version during the year. Tiny houses and cars are among the items that can be bought as well as cellphones, computers, cars, food, and paper dollar bills.
While believers can buy the miniature goods for their Ekeko dolls, someone else has to buy the statue for them.
Believers have their tiny objects blessed at Roman Catholic churches, then again by traditional holy men, who douse them with incense smoke and alcohol.
There is no limit to the dreams expressed during this festival, and the miniature items sold in rows of market stalls in the Bolivian capital include university diplomas, wedding licenses and even divorce certificates.
And for those who don't have a partner? Their friends can give them a tiny rooster or hen made of plaster so they may find their other half in the coming year.