Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Sunday, 22 February 2009

In pictures: Oruro carnival

Dancers in devil's costumes in Oruro

The streets of Oruro, a high-altitude mining town in the Andes, have been filled with colour and song at the start of Bolivia's largest annual festival, La Diablada. (Photo: Andres Schipani).

Dancers in Oruro

The carnival is a riot of singing, dancing and traditional rituals which brings tens of thousands of visitors to the normally unprepossessing town. (Photo: A Schipani).

Indigenous revellers in Oruro

The carnival, known locally as Anata, reinforces the cultural identity of the local community and also mixes the Andean and Catholic traditions. (Photo: A Schipani).

Revellers in Oruro

As many as 50,000 people were expected in Oruro for this year's festival. (Photo: A Schipani).

Dancing for La Diablada, Oruro, Bolivia

The highlight is always a 20-hour-long, 4km (2.5 mile) procession.

Traditional La Diablada mask

The ornate, often fearsome-looking masks worn by dancers are full of symbolism to the indigenous majority. Many are unique to the Oruro festival and are seen in public only once a year. (Photo: A Schipani).

Devil's masks in Oruro

The original devil masks were made of plaster and weighed more than 10kg (22lb). Nowadays, fibre-glass is used, while nose, ears and horns are made of tin or cardboard. (Photo: A Schipani).

Dancer and miner Lucio Luna

"This is the most spectacular thing that we have here in Bolivia... I am very proud of being part of this carnival," says miner Lucio Luna. (Photo: A Schipani).

President Evo Morales among carnival dancers in Oruro

For many - among them Bolivia's President Evo Morales - the carnival is a chance to cut loose on the dance floor.

A spiritual leader throws confetti on miners in Oruro, 20 February 2009

The dances of La Diablada tell an ancient story of the battle between good and evil, and the days around carnival time are rich in tradition in the once-rich tin mining town.

Miners at an offering ceremony in Oruro, 20 February 2009

Today Oruro is largely poor, but tin miners still make offerings to gods at carnival time - of sugar, llamas, coca leaves and beer - hoping they will keep them safe underground.

A llama ready to be sacrificed in Oruro, Bolivia, 20 February 2009

The largest offering is the sacrifice of a llama. The Andean animals are offered to Pachamama, or Mother Earth, to thank her for keeping people safe and to ask for good fortune in the coming year.

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