For most of the year San Ignacio is a sleepy backwater, except in late July, when the Fiesta Patronal or Ichapekenepiesta rouses the town from its tropical torpor in celebration of its titular patron saint. Considered the greatest folkloric festival in the Bolivian Amazon, it reaches its zenith on the 31st in a riot of noise, colour, dancing and wonderful music, performed on flute, drums, violin and metre-long palm-leaf bajones – a kind of giant tropical equivalent to the highland quena (a type of traditional flute). The most iconic dance, the Machetero, is both a salutation to the sun and a thinly veiled portrayal of the struggles against Spanish rule, hypnotically performed by indigenous Moxeños dressed in brilliant feather headdresses and long cotton robes. The austere-looking achus, by contrast, represent the spirits of the ancestors, their dark suits topped off with carved wooden masks and raw-leather hats. Needless to say it’s all accompanied by copious quantities of alcohol and the familiar whiff of cordite; just don’t expect much sleep.

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