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Andean row over 'good luck' doll

By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima, Peru

Ekeko, laden with food, money and goods
Both Bolivia and Peru lay claim to the Ekeko deity

Another row over cultural heritage has broken out between Bolivia and Peru - over the origins of a "good luck" doll.

Bolivia is asking the UN to recognise the cultural heritage of the Alacita festival, celebrating the figure of the Ekeko - something Peru also claims.

Last month, Bolivia's culture minister threatened to sue Miss Peru over her choice of outfit at a beauty contest.

Politically Peru and Bolivia are not on the best of terms, but few suspect this could seriously worsen relations.

In the mythology of the Altiplano, or high plateau, the Ekeko is the god of abundance and prosperity.

In the area which straddles Peru and Bolivia, he is represented by a doll.

Miss Peru wore the costume at the Miss Universe 2009 contest

Usually chubby, with a moustache and wearing Andean clothes, the doll is depicted carrying loads of food, household goods and money.

The doll is usually bought for newly wedded couples or a new home.

Peru's Culture Minister Cecilia Bakula says the Ekeko is a popular expression of the whole high plateau region which straddles Peru, Bolivia and a small area of Chile.

But Bolivia disagrees and has announced it is applying to Unesco, the United Nations cultural wing, to recognise the cultural heritage status of La Paz's annual Alacita festival, which celebrates the Ekeko deity and sells hundreds of dolls.

The mayor of La Paz has rejected Peru's argument that the Ekeko is bi-national.

However, on Friday, the Bolivian ambassador in Peru, Franz Solano, acknowledged that the doll was present in both countries.

His statement eased the national passions, at least on the Peruvian side of the border.

Culturally, Bolivia and Peru share many traditions.

It remains to be seen what will be the next cultural icon to be contested.



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