The Story Behind Bolivia's Mother's Day

The Heroines of the Hill Fought for Freedom

May 27, 2016  |  By Melanie Hazenberg, Netherlands

The Story Behind Bolivia's Mother's Day

Mother’s Day can be one of the most beautiful days or a painful reminder of a missing piece of your life. This day is been celebrated by people all over the world, but in Bolivia this party is more special than anywhere. Not only because the woman is the most important person in a home, but also because of the history of the 27th of May, which has been one of the most important days in the history of Bolivia.

For some moms Mother’s Day is the best day of their life. For moms in Europe with young children, Mother’s Day is most of the time over  five minutes after they receive the presents. Then it is just like every day; Children Day! On Mother’s Day we pay homage to the one who gave us life. Especially in Bolivia, the woman is the most important person in a home. She is the one who is in charge for the household economy and the support of the entire household. The women due to this unique day in May in Bolivia are ‘The Heroines of the Hill.’ I will explain this special story.

Women fighting for freedom

The 27th of May 1812 was the first time women participated in battle. In the year 1812 Latin-America was fighting to get their independence of Spain. The king of Spain sent general Goyeneche to the valleys of Cochabamba. This general was successful, but he had one plan left: The Heroines of the Hill. While the men were dying in a bloody battle, the women decided to defend their community by themselves. Under the orders of Josefa Manueal Gandarillas (who was elderly and blind) an army formed. The army consisted only of women, children and elders. They were armed with small weapons like saucepans and sticks. They scaled the Coronilla (San Sebastian Hill) with shouts of ‘Our home is sacred’, and carrying the image of Virgin of Mercy. On May 27th (1812), a day we will never forget, the inevitable happened. General Goyeneche and his army slaughtered hundreds of women. There was a lot of pain in the community, but through this pain grew new hope. The women who were killed are called now: ‘Heroinas de la Coronilla – Heroines of the Hill.’ Every year the Bolivian people celebrate Mother’s Day at the 27th of May and every year this date remembers millions of people of these heroic women who died in 1812. Today, their lives and the battle they lost are remembered as one of the most special days of the year. There is always a big party during Mother’s Day.

Way of celebrating in Bolivia
Typically in Bolivia, children from elementary schools invite their mothers to their school. At school the children show their moms what they have learned. They show them some typical Bolivian dances or tender songs. The children have been practicing for a month to do this performance, so everything is done with pure happiness and delight. It is a very special day for the moms and also for their children. Not only because they can show their moms their beautiful dances, but also because of the special meaning of this day as I mentioned before. Almost every mom celebrates Mother’s Day the same way.

Special day for every mother in the world

For moms all around the world this day is very special. Only Bolivia celebrates Mother’s Day at the 27th but it is everywhere a big party.

%u030EI really like to be aware of the great relationship I have with my kids once a year. I am very grateful. The most beautiful presents for Mother’s Day were when my kids were little. They give me self-made crafts. I still keep everything somewhere %u030E (The Netherlands). Another reaction is: %u030E We always celebrate Mother’s Day with presents, breakfast in bed and we are also going to the grandmothers, because they are moms too %u030E (The United States). In Bolivia they celebrate this day with a lot of joy in schools. %u030E Mother’s day is a very happy day for me. I am always going to the school of the children, where they are showing me dances. My husband always buys some presents and he and my kids make breakfast for me. We are also always going to my mother to celebrate %u030E (Bolivia). %u030E

In the USA Mother’s Day is also a big event. It is the most celebrated day afterwards Christmas and Valentine Day. Phone lines have heavy traffic during this day and there is a peak in restaurants. Traditions in the US count breakfast in bed, giving flowers or other gifts. In the USA Mother’s Day is a national holiday. In France people celebrate this day on the last Sunday of the month of May. The mother is mostly being honored with a cake that looks like a bouquet of flowers. In India Mother’s Day is a big hype. It has been commercialized to a great extent. Big companies launch women oriented products. Also the media creates a big hype about this day with special television programs and features. Unlike other countries, Spain celebrates Mother’s Day in December. The Spaniards pay not only tribute to their own mothers, but also to Virgin Mary. So Mother’s Day is in general in Spain a religious celebration. In England the people already celebrated Mother’s Day in 17th century. This country was the first who dedicate a day special for mothers. In UK there is the tradition to make a rich almond cake for mothers called ‘Mothering Cake’ or ‘Simnel Cake’.

I think that you have a good impression of how the Bolivian people celebrate Mother’s Day and why on the 27th of May. I think it is very special to honor our moms on the day when hundreds of women died heroically for their community. Every country has a special reason to honor moms on this beautiful day.



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