(Reuters) - High atop the Andes Mountains in Bolivia, indigenous people gathered at dawn for a ritual ceremony in honor of Pachamama, the goddess of Earth and fertility, with fires and offerings.
On the Day of Mother Earth, followers go to high elevations to burn wood stacks with animal fat, colored paper and sweets to thank Pachamama.
At this year's celebration, which fell on Sunday, snow covered the ground near La Paz. People were bundled in warm coats and wore face masks against the spread of COVID-19.
The centuries-old tradition, which extends from northern Argentina and Chile to Peru and Bolivia, is celebrated with offerings that can include sheep fetuses, desiccated llamas, medicinal plants, eggs, minerals and even live animals that are sacrificed for the favor of the goddess.
August is the chosen month because according to indigenous communities this is when Mother Earth "opens her mouth" in hopes of being venerated with offerings.
Pachamama is the highest divinity of the Aymara and Quechua peoples, the protector goddess of the material world, and the faithful make their offerings because they believe Mother Earth is exhausted after providing for humanity.
(Reporting by Monica Machicao, Santiago Limachi, Sergio Limachi and Geraldine Downer; Writing by Cynthia Osterman; Editing by Sandra Maler)