‘Queen of Great Power’ chosen at Bolivian festival

Organizers of the Lord Jesus of the Great Power Festival, which fuses Andean and Catholic cultures, have chosen the queen to head the annual event which will mobilize 74,000 dancers and more than 4,000 musicians in the Bolivian city of La Paz.

Wearing the red skirt, white-fringed shawl and hat of the “la morenada” dance, Steffany Arriaza Cabezas took first place among 73 participants in voting that concluded early Saturday. She will lead festivities on June 21.

Arriaza represented “Morenada X of the Great Power,” one of the most traditional fraternities in the festival with more than a thousand dancers. The morenada is a folk dance born in the Andes and inspired by the slave trade in the region during the colonial era. Its influence has extended to Peru, Chile and Argentina in recent decades.

Each participant enters the catwalk performing the dance she represents. The judges take into account the dress and choreography, and the contestants have to answer questions.

The first place winner receives a kitchen; the second place participant a refrigerator and the third place dancer a microwave oven. The queen will preside over the festival, said Marina Isabel Salazar, president of the Association of Folkloric Groups.

On June 21, the dancers will descend the steep streets of the highland city of La Paz from the Jesus of the Great Power Catholic church, where the festival was born 49 years ago. Over the years, the festival has become a cultural icon for the city.

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