Bolivia's Alasitas Fair shines with UNESCO list recognition

People accompany the Bolivian deity statuette "illa of Ekeko" as it is driven to the Alasita fair in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, declared the fair of Alasita intangible heritage of humanity on Dec. 2017. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
A family poses for photos with a man dressed as the famed Ekeko character, the Bolivian god of prosperity and the central figure at the annual Alasita miniature fair, in downtown La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Thousands of people attended the opening day of the fair to buy tiny replicas of things they aspire to acquire during the year, like homes, cars, wealth and love. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Andean religious leaders carry urns with burning incense in a procession of the Bolivian deity statue Ekeko, the Bolivian god of prosperity and the central figure of the Alasita miniature fair, in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
An Aymara indigenous spiritual guide waits for paying clients who ask for a blessing on the opening day of the Alasita fair in downtown La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Thousands of people attended the opening day of the fair to buy tiny replicas of things they aspire to acquire during the year, like homes, cars, wealth and love, and many get their items blessed for about 3 dollars. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Andean religious leaders carry urns with burning incense in a procession of the Bolivian deity statue Ekeko, the Bolivian god of prosperity and the central figure of the Alasita miniature fair, in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Vendor Maria Luisa sells miniatures homes at the annual Alasita fair in downtown La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Jan. 24. 2018. Thousands people attended the opening day of the fair to buy tiny replicas of things they aspire to acquire during the year, like homes, cars, wealth and love. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
People hold up miniature homes and fake money for a blessing by a Catholic priest outside San Francisco Basilica on the opening day of the Alasita fair in downtown La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Jan. 24. 2018. Thousands people attended the annual fair to buy tiny replicas of things they aspire to acquire during the year, like homes, cars, wealth and love. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
An Aymara indigenous spiritual guide blesses Lucia Bustillos and Mario Rocha's fake money during the annual Alasita fair in downtown La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Thousands of people attended the opening day of the fair to buy tiny replicas of things they aspire to acquire during the year, like homes, cars, wealth and love. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Vendors of miniature items fill the street outside San Francisco Basilica on the first day of the annual Alasita fair in downtown La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Thousands people attended the opening day of the fair to buy tiny replicas of things they aspire to acquire during the year, like homes, cars, wealth and love. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Women musicians play flutes in a procession of the Bolivian statue Ekeko, the Bolivian god of prosperity and the central figure of the Alasita miniature fair, in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, declared the fair of Alasita intangible heritage of humanity on Dec. 2017. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
People accompany the statue of Ekeko, the Bolivian god of prosperity and the central figure of the Alasita miniature fair, in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
People accompany the statue of Ekeko, the Bolivian god of prosperity and the central figure of the Alasita miniature fair, in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, declared the fair of Alasita intangible heritage of humanity on Dec. 2017. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
A priest sprinkles holy water over people's miniature items and fake money as he gives a blessing outside San Francisco Basilica during the annual Alasita fair in downtown La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Thousands people attended the opening day of the fair to buy tiny replicas of things they aspire to acquire during the year, like homes, cars, wealth and love. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Men musicians play flutes in a procession of the Bolivian statue Ekeko, the Bolivian god of prosperity and the central figure of the Alasita miniature fair, in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Every year, thousands of Bolivians head to the two-week Alasitas festival to buy miniature cars, houses and toy dollar bills symbolizing their dreams of prosperity in one of South America's poorest countries.

But this year, they're not the only believers in the festival with roots in Aymara indigenous traditions.

Bolivia's first indigenous president celebrated Wednesday the recent recognition of the pre-Columbian tradition by the U.N.'s educational, scientific and cultural agency. The ritual journeys in La Paz during Alasitas were inscribed in December by UNESCO on its representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

"Now we have the opportunity for international organizations to recognize our livelihood and our heritage," President Evo Morales, a native Aymara, said at the opening of the fair that begins every Jan. 24.

The Aymara indigenous word "alasita" means "buy me."

Tiny items, from kitchen appliances to college diplomas, are taken home and placed around Ekeko, the god of abundance who the Aymara people believe will bless them with better lives in the coming year.

The hopeful also buy statues of Ekeko. He is often rendered as a short, pudgy, mustached man who wears traditional Andean clothes and carries baskets of grains.

"I asked for my college degree, and I got it. You need to come with faith," said Lucia Bustillos, a lawyer who attended the festival with her husband and purchased a house, cars and teensy wads of euros representing the couple's wishes for the new year.

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