A beauty pageant has set off a beastly battle between Peru and Bolivia, which both claim ownership of the Andean "Devil's Dance."
The Peruvian contender for Miss Universe, Karen Schwarz, set off
the feud when she donned a wildly ornate dress, boots and cape -
accompanied by a multicolored, horned headpiece - as a symbol of
the dance allegedly native to her country.
Bolivia immediately cried fraud.
"The devil has his home" in Bolivia's high-plains city of
Oruro, said Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca. His
government began running ads on regionwide television network
Telesur and CNN en Espanol staking Bolivia's claim to the dance and
has threatened to take the dispute to an international tribunal at
And on Thursday night, hundreds of Bolivian dancers and
musicians bedecked in the devilish attire swirled fiendishly around
La Paz's central Murillo Square for more than three hours.
Last week, a team of Peruvian congressmen stumped through a
comparatively shaky performance of the whirling jig in front of
Congressman Johnny Lescano, from the Puno province bordering
Bolivia, called Bolivia's claims "disoriented." The dance "was
initially established ... in Puno and first danced in the mines of
Laycacota in 1583," Lescano said.
The Peruvian National Culture Institute was more diplomatic:
Director Cecilia Bakula says the dance is not only Bolivian and
Peruvian, but Chilean as well.
The dance "represents the battle between the archangel and the
seven deadly sins represented by the devil," Bakula said.
"So it's not as ancient as they say; it dates to colonial
Such prickly nationalistic spats are characteristic of the
Andean region, where modern nation-states share a common cultural
history. For its part, Peru has mounted an international campaign
against Chile's claim over a fiery grape brandy called pisco and
Chile's contention that 99 percent of the world's potatoes derive
from its spuds.
But Peru's relations with Bolivia have traditionally been
amicable - at heart, they've got more in common than not. They
share Lake Titicaca, believed to be the birthplace of the Incas,
whose Peruvian-based empire stretched from Colombia to Argentina.
And Bolivia was a Peruvian province called "Upper Peru" under
The two countries waged a joint war against Chile in the 1880s
in which Bolivia, now landlocked, lost its Pacific coastline, and
Peru a chunk of its southern territory.
But ideological differences between Peruvian President Alan
Garcia and Bolivian President Evo Morales have distanced the
Morales, a left-leaning, Aymara Indian ally of Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez and an adamant opponent of free trade, has
bristled at Garcia's efforts to spread his free-trade fervor to the
Andean Community trade group.
Relations further soured when Garcia's government granted asylum
to three ex-Bolivian ministers whom Morales is looking to prosecute
for their alleged roles in a bloody massacre of protesters in 2003.
Morales has called the hefty Garcia "fatty," and labeled him
and former President George W. Bush "the worst presidents in the
world." Garcia dismissed the comments as "barroom insults" and
has shrugged off the latest spat over the "Devil's Dance" as a
sign of "immaturity."
Schwarz, the Miss Universe candidate, says she wasn't trying to
claim the dance as solely Peruvian - but she didn't seem to mind
the attention her costume has brought her.
"This whole mess has helped me because Peruvians have taken
notice of what I'm doing," she said.
The new Miss Universe will be crowned on Sunday in the Bahamas.