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Costume provokes devil of a row

By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima

Miss Peru Karen Schwarz poses during the national costume event of the Miss Universe 2009 competition in Nassau, the Bahamas
La Diablada dance dates from colonial times, historians say

Bolivia and Peru are not always on the best of terms but their latest row is not of a political nature - it's down to the choice of a dress.

For her appearance at the Miss Universe contest in the Bahamas this month, Miss Peru has chosen a dress inspired by an Andean dance popular in both nations.

She will perform in a costume bedecked with diabolical horns and eyes.

Bolivia has accused the Miss Peru organisers of unfairly appropriating Bolivian cultural heritage.

The issue has pricked national pride on both sides of the border.

It has prompted angry newspaper editorials and indignant blogs, and Bolivian Culture Minister Pablo Groux was quoted in Peruvian newspapers as saying that Bolivia would sue.

Peru, meanwhile, coolly maintains the dance is part of the culture of the Altiplano, or high plateau, which straddles the two countries.

'Pre-statehood' dance

In Peru La Diablada, or the Devil's Dance, is played at the carnival of Puno in the south of the country.

In Bolivia, it is the main dance at the carnival in the city of Oruro which has been given special cultural heritage status by the UN.

In both countries the dance depicts the fight between good and evil, embodied by the Archangel Saint Michael who battles the devils representing the seven deadly sins.

However most historians agree that La Diablada dates from colonial times, before Peru and Bolivia existed as independent nations.



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