The devil wears a costume
Blogging about Latin America is always interesting, and at times vastly amusing.
Imagine a beauty pageant, a contestant wearing as “national costume” a corset, thigh-high lace-up boots and carrying a bullwhip, and an international diplomatic feud that two countries are ready to take to The Hague.
A diplomatic storm is brewing between Peru and Bolivia. Bolivia’s president has accused Peru of thievery. Peru’s Congress issued a bristling denial. Bolivian diplomats are threatening to take the dispute to an international tribunal at The Hague.
The two Andean neighbors are tussling over a costume in the Miss Universe pageant.
Last week, in the event’s national-costume competition, Peru’s candidate, Karen Schwarz, wore an elaborately embroidered outfit with a massive horned headpiece. It was inspired by practitioners of a timeless Andean ritual known as La Diablada, the Devil’s Dance.
Take a look:
Kinky in a colorful way, you say? Not so! It’s festive,
The costume’s designer, Ricardo Dávila, insists he and his 16-member costume-making team weren’t inspired by Bolivia, but by festive outfits in the Peruvian city of Puno. Besides the horned helmet with bulbous eyes, Ms. Schwarz’s costume features a beaded corset, hip-hugging shorts and boots rising above the knee. A cape, bursting with bright yellow and red colors, is emblazoned with a painting of Lake Titicaca, which borders Peru and Bolivia. Mr. Davila dubbed his cotton and papier-mâché fancy “Diabolically Beautiful.”
There’s even a scheduled performance of La Diablada today in front of the Peruvian embassy in Washington.
Of course the costume is only window dressing for a larger issue:
Many analysts say festering political tensions between Bolivia and Peru are stoking the so-called “Misses’ War.” Bolivian President Evo Morales is a highly nationalistic leftist who is a good friend of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. Peru’s President Alan García is a centrist who loathes Mr. Chávez. Mr. García enraged Mr. Morales in May by granting political asylum to three ex-ministers from a prior Bolivian government whom Mr. Morales was trying to imprison for their alleged roles in a political massacre. In June, Mr. Morales, who is himself of Indian origin, accused Peru of genocide after indigenous protests in the Peruvian Amazon resulted in the deaths of more than 30 Indians and police officers.
Now Mr. Morales has focused his wrath on the devil costume. “We can’t stop the miss from wearing that, but she should recognize the [intellectual] property, the origin of La Diablada,” Mr. Morales said last weekend. This week, Bolivia’s government began running ads asserting its sovereignty over La Diablada on CNN’s Spanish-language network and regional broadcaster Telesur. Thursday was declared the “Day of Recognition of the Bolivian Diablada” with performances and academic colloquies in La Paz.
Adding to the absurdity of the situation, now Evo Morales is talking about “intellectual property rights”?
You can’t make it up if you try.