Bare Feet With Mickela Mallozzi


Bolivian Pride

The Bolivian community in Queens may be small, but they are mighty – Mickela joins cross-generational Bolivian family members with the Caporales and Tinkus dances.

AIRED: February 01, 2018 | 0:26:00

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>> Hello? Hello? Hello?

1, 2. 1, 2.

Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello?

1, 2. 1, 2.

>> I'm a dancer...

and I'm a traveler.

And wherever I go, I experience

the world one dance at a time.

I'm Mickela Mallozzi, and this

is "Bare Feet in NYC."

Bolivians are among the smallest

population of South American

cultures in the United States.

Less than 10,000

Bolivian-Americans call the

New York metro area home.

Queens is home to many Bolivians

living in New York City.

But surprisingly enough, there

isn't a neighborhood that is

characterized as being

predominantly Bolivian in

New York.

And because of this, family

living rooms, apartment

basements, and school

auditoriums are where

Bolivian-Americans continue

their legacy.

On this "Bare Feet in NYC"

adventure, I meet with the small

but mighty group of

Bolivian-Americans who are

preserving their heritage within

their tight-knit community

through music and dance.

[ Up-tempo music playing ]

My first stop is to meet with

the Fraternidad Cultural

Incallajta New York group,

founded by Juan Jose Torrico.

The group's mission is to

continue the dance and music

traditions that Juan learned in

his home country of Bolivia.

You are the founder of

Incallajta, which is a

traditional folklore group here

in New York.

>> Yes.

>> Explain a little bit about

the group.

>> We started in '89.

And then for three years, we

stopped, and then we start by

myself the group.

So, Incallajta started in 1992.

We see the young people,

you know, at that time, and we

don't have nothing to do,

you know, from my country.

>> Uh-huh.

>> So, that's the part, was,

you know, you don't want to lose

that, you know?

No matter what, if you go

any country, you have to learn,

you know, "Where am I coming


>> Mm-hmm.

Incallajta is a family affair.

Jose's daughters are part of the

group, and his love for his

homeland and the dance and music

that come from there are passed

down to his own children.

>> 1, 2, and then you're gonna

clap that way.

1, 2, 3. Three of them.

1, 2.

Now clap the other way. 1, 2, 3.

There you go.

>> Abby, Juan's oldest, leads

Incallajta through their

rehearsals for upcoming

parade performances.

>> Does your mom dance?

>> Yes, she does. We all dance.

>> Oh, awesome!

>> It's our whole family.

Pretty much, my parents actually

met dancing.

Yeah. It was like a celebration

that they did for the

Virgin Mary, and they met

through that.

>> It's so cool that you can

come here and he passes down his

tradition to you and share dance

with him.

>> It's pretty busy.

>> [ Laughs ]

>> I'm not gonna lie.

It's something that takes up a

lot of our free time.

>> Yeah.

>> But not a lot of kids are

able to be in touch with their

culture and know so much about


>> Is it too tight?

>> No. I like it tight.

>> Good.

>> I need it tight, right?

So it doesn't fall off.

What is this called?

>> That's called a faja.

>> Faja.

>> So, I think a relatively

simple, like, entire step for

you to learn would probably be

step 7.

>> 3.

>> So, what you would do is you

would go on that side.

You will go 1, 2, 3

and your leg up.

1, 2, 3, other leg.

1, 2, 3.

1, 2, 3. Perfect.

So, you do four of those in the


1, 2, 3, go. 1.

>> So, explain to me what tinku

is a little bit.

>> "Tinku" -- it means


So, it's basically, like, two

indigenous communities who come

together and they end up


Normally, a long time ago, it

would be until one died.

>> Whoa.

>> However, yeah, now --

>> Wait. The dance?

They would do the dance?

>> It would actually be --

That's where the dance came

from, 'cause it was actually two

communities who would fight.

>> Oh, my gosh. To the death.


>> It's a fight to the death,

and the body that ended up

passing on or whatever, that

body would end up being offered

to the Mother Earth.

So, that's basically where the

dance came from.

But then, you know, time

passes, and, obviously,

you know, societies become more

civilized, and it just turned

into a dance, and now the

fighting is a little more


They still do fight,

but they don't --

>> Not to the death.

>> Forward.

1, 2.

Fall back. Bum, bum, bum.


>> So, should I be twisting

every time I go?

>> Yeah. When you do it, kind

of, it's just like --

like that, yeah.

Like you're falling out of

balance, like somebody just

pushed you.

Yeah, for example --

That actually makes sense,

because when they fight or

whatever, they go like that.

So, you're gonna go like that.

>> Tinku is a Bolivian tradition

of the Aymara people, the

indigenous people of Bolivia who

eventually fell under the Inca

rule in the 15th century and

then the Spanish rule in the

16th century.

As Abby said, tinku started as

combat, which evolved into a


Originally, the women would

never fight but instead dance in

a circle, surrounding the men

battling to the death.

The women were traditionally

dressed in embroidered wool

dresses, colorful tops, and

elaborately decorated hats.

These tinkus, or dance brawls,

would last two to three days and

were used as a means to release

frustration and anger between

the neighboring communities.


[ All shout ]

>> Basically, each dance has its

own music, its own rhythm.

She has her own preferences.

I have my own preferences.

But, in all, it's a very diverse

culture, and it's very, very


>> Is this handmade?

>> Yep.

>> Wow.

From Bolivia?

>> Yeah. Yes.

>> Wow.


Do I look Bolivian?

>> Mm-hmm.

>> [ Laughs ]

Oh, my gosh! My goodness.

>> Oh, God. I hope it fits you.

>> I have a big head.

>> No. There you go.

There you go.

>> And you dance with this --

what we just did -- with this


>> Yes, with all that on.

>> The Bolivian community here

in New York specifically is very

small, so for me to be able to

represent it here, knowing that

there's not many of us, it

kind of feels like a

responsibility, but in a good

way, because I get to showcase

what my culture is, and I take a

lot of pride in doing it right,

so it means a lot to me.

>> Cha! Cha! Cha! Incallajta!

Incallajta! Cha!

>> Whoo! Yes!

Another proud group of Bolivian

dancers include the

Caporales San Simón.

You may recognize them from the

numerous parades that they

participate in here in New York.

From the NYC Dance Parade to the

numerous ethnic parades, the

Caporales San Simón are a legion

of dancers with bells, whistles,

and aggressive movement.

It is a sight to see.

And here I was in an unassuming

basement in Queens to meet with

this iconic Bolivian group.

>> Well, for

Caporales San Simón, it brings

back a lot of history in


In Cochabamba, Bolivia, it was

founded in 1978 as a fraternity.

>> So, it's a dance fraternity?

>> Yeah, it's a dance


>> Okay.

Monica's letting me borrow her


What is the name of the skirt?

>> Pollera.

>> Pollera.

>> Yes.

It has three layers. You see?

>> Yeah. 1, 2.

>> Well, actually four.

>> Four.

>> 'Cause it has to go with the

colors of the outfit.

>> I don't want to rip it.

[ Laughs ]

>> It's all right.

>> A corset.

The Bolivian corset.

>> Remember, you can look sexy,

but, at the same time, you have

to make sure you don't show too

much, because, remember --

>> We're doing this?

>> Right. When you're dancing,

you're moving the skirt.

>> San Simón New York is one of

the many U.S. chapters of this

cultural fraternity here in the

United States.

Fraternidad Folklórica

Cultural Caporales

Universitarios de San Simón is

based in Cochabamba, Bolivia,

and is a worldwide community of

folkloric dancers passing down

the cultural traditions of


The fraternity even has an

anthem that all

San Simón-affiliated groups

identify with.


[ Whistle blows ]

You know, when you see you guys

coming down the road, it's just

like, "Oh, my gosh!

The Caporales are coming."

It's like you hear the,

"Tch-tch! Tch-tch!"

This, like, crazy sounds of the


You hear you guys whistling.

And it's infectious, you know,

when you see it.

You just want to, like,

jump in and join.

And then you have the girls.

>> The girls are cholitas, so

their outfits consist of a

blouse, miniskirt,

and high-heeled boots --

also a cholita hat.

>> So, it's very important for

you that you have to know the


>> Yeah.

>> So, you can make -- start

mixing the steps, and you can

create your own one if you want.

>> Right.

>> So, for example, number 2...

>> Number 2. Let's see number 2.

[ Rhythmic clapping ]


>> A step here.

>> Uh-huh.

>> Here.

>> Here.

[ Humming ]

>> You know now.

>> Our mission is always to

preserve the Bolivian culture,

and here in New York,

it's very important to preserve

that because we have other

groups that represent other

native dances -- such dances as

Tobas, tinkus, morenada,

La Diablada.

I believe that it's the best way

to preserve it because newer

generations will also come in to

express through dance and feel

the dance, as well.

>> [ Vocalizing ]

>> [ Speaking Spanish ]

>> Ha! Yes!

Okay, now I feel better!

How did you start dancing?

>> Well, to be honest, my sister

brought me into this whole


I must have been, like, what,


I had an idea, and then I

started getting into it little

by little, and then, like, what,

13 years later, I'm still here.

>> Men's dance!

Turning into a guy! Let's do it!

>> I want to see that.

>> The skirt is comin' off!

>> You pretty much notice, you

know, the rhythm with the girls.

>> Mm-hmm.

>> With the guys, it's --

you follow the same basic but...

>> On your heel?

>> There you go. Heel.

And then toe.

More pronounced, like this.

1, 2, 3, 4.

>> What are the movements based

on? 'Cause I see there's a lot

of fancy footwork.

>> Our steps are mostly

based on --

We're pretty much symbolizing

the overseer of the slaves, so

we pretty much have to show our

strength -- a lot of strength, a

lot of power.

And that's why we jump a lot, we

kick a lot.

Sometimes we kneel on the floor

a lot.

We need to show off that,

you know, we're the "boss."

>> Right. Right, right, right.

1, 2, 3, 4.

>> Caporales is a traditional

dance from Bolivia with Andean


The caporal, the man's character

in the dance, represents the

overseer of the black slaves

brought over to the region in

the 16th and 17th centuries.

Caporales in its current form as

a folkloric dance started

becoming popular in the late

1960s and has spread throughout

South America and the

United States, performed during

festivities and religious


>> All of our outfits are

handmade in Bolivia.

We bring them in here.

This is where the bells go.

I don't really have any right


>> How many outfits do you own?

>> Me personally?

Oh, man. Over 15, 16.

>> Wow.

And I would say, like, ballpark

range, how much does one

complete outfit cost?

>> It varies in material.

I would say around $250 to $300.

>> Wow.

[ Whistle blows ]


How do you feel that the group

has really helped you be a part

of this community, or has it?

>> We have -- Of course it has.

Most of us, if not all of us,

we pretty much arrived to this

country at a young age.

We pretty much have that

sentiment of we miss our

country, we miss our food, we

miss our people, and once we're

brought into this group, it

opens a lot of doors.

We know a lot of people.

Sometimes we reach out to people

that we've met back in Bolivia,

so you get the feeling that

you're pretty much back home, at

least for a couple of hours, and

that's, I guess, the aim of this

group, as a whole in

the United States.

>> That's wonderful.

[ All singing in Spanish ]

After getting a lesson with

Caporales San Simón, I went to

find them at one of the many

annual parades that they

participate in to see them in


[ Whistle blows ]


[ Men chanting ]

[ Whistle blows ]

[ Bells jingling ]

[ Whistle blows ]

This is a perfect chance for me

to see if I can try a few of the

Caporales moves myself.


The next day, I meet with

Karina and Fabricia Moscoso,

sisters in the

Caporales San Simón group,

who were taking me to one of the

few authentically Bolivian

restaurants in all of New York.

We head to Woodside, Queens, at

the corner of 67th Street and

Woodside Avenue, home of Cumbre.

We meet up with some of the

other Caporales San Simón

dancers, as this is a local

Bolivian favorite.

All the dancers from San Simón!

You grew up eating this food,

but you also grew up here

in New York.

>> My parents came here over

45 years ago, and we grew up in

Queens, and then there is a

small Bolivian community here.

>> As time went by, more

Bolivians started moving here to

New York City, and the community

started growing.

And along with that came,

you know, organizations and

clubs, and dance groups were


And once they started forming,

they started sprouting up all

over the place.

You would see them in parades,

and we saw that, and we're like,

"We want to be a part of that."

As children, there weren't that

many dance groups around, and I

would see videotapes that my

relatives would send over from


>> From Bolivia?

>> From Bolivia.

And they all looked --

"You know, this is a video of

the carnival" or some dancing or

some folkloric music or

something, and I would see

things, and I'd be like,

"Oh, my God. I would love it."

But, you know, that's something

we thought that you can only do

over there.

As we got older --

>> Social media started bringing

everybody together.

>> We're meeting other

Bolivians, and each of these

people -- you know, all these

people are teaching us new

things, new customs, new

traditions, things that maybe we

weren't aware of before.

And not just, you know, the

customs but why -- why they came

about and the history behind it.

The social, the political, the

heritage, you know, it's

really amazing.


>> So, what are the essential

dishes we need to eat today?

>> Well, first, we got to start

off with salteñas.

>> Yes.

>> Always.

Very Bolivian.

It looks like an empanada.

Same idea. However, inside,

it's, like, mixed with meat,

chicken, egg, you know.

>> And it's a stew.

>> And the dough is pretty --

it's thick, and then it's baked.

>> Sweeter than a traditional


>> Oh, wow.

Holy cow. I wasn't expecting

them to be so big.

You show me.

>> You hold it from the bottom


And you kind of just bite in,

make a little hole, and then

start biting a little more.

There you go.

>> And the bread is -- Oh, wow.

>> If it's really hot, you can

kind of just dig in with a


>> Mmm. See?

I should have watched you.

It kind of exploded

and burned my hand.

In most cities in Bolivia,

salteñas are sold between

7:00 A.M. and noon, served as a

hearty midmorning snack and

meant to hold you over well past


Sopa de mani, or peanut soup,

is a hearty soup from

Cochabamba, Bolivia.

It is made of fresh-ground

peanuts and potatoes,

which give it that milky flavor.

>> It's good in the wintertime.

>> Yeah.

Recent DNA research studies

suggest the peanut plant's

origins can be traced back to

ancient Bolivia.


It doesn't taste like peanut.

Oh, now it does.

>> Yeah.

>> Yeah, that flavor came in


Pique macho is a popular

Bolivian dish consisting of a

huge portion of bite-sized beef,

fried potatoes, onions,

mayonnaise, ketchup, and more.

♪ Macho, macho man

Yeah. You really --

There's hot dogs in there.

>> This is for the person who

has the big appetite.

>> No. That's why it's called

"macho," okay?

>> Pique macho.

Chicharrón, or crackling pig,

is another dish typical from

Cochabamba, Bolivia.

It is also one of the

most traditional dishes found

throughout South America.

Crackling pork, guys.

The most delicious thing you

will probably eat.

The Bolivian version is

served with mote,

or hominy corn,

to offset the fried pork.

So, the San Simón dancers come

here after you've been dancing

for hours in the parade.

No wonder. I mean, this is how

you --

>> We come here after

practices, after parades.

We congregate here.

>> Yeah.

>> We already did the Bolivian


Why not do the Bolivian eating?

>> Exactly.

With all of this delicious and

filling food, I head into the

kitchen to meet with Raul,

the owner of Cumbre.

Raul strives to make the

experience here as close to home

for all Bolivian-Americans

living in the area, from the

music to the food to the

ingredients being used.

Raul, you are a co-owner of


>> Yes.

>> First of all, the food is


Second of all, we are having so

much fun.

>> We try, you know, to bring

all the Bolivian tastes

into here.

Actually, it's big work.

You know, there are trips

to Virginia, there are trips to

Florida to bring, like,

you know, Bolivian real stuff,

like, you know, that we imported

from Bolivia to the restaurant.

>> Yeah.

>> So, you can --

What you can do, like, you know,

when you taste the food,

actually, you can feel

like you're in Bolivia.

>> Yeah.


So, come to Cumbre.

You will be transported to

Bolivia here with Raul and

everyone else in the restaurant.

>> Bring your passports.

>> Yes! Bring your passports!

[ All singing in Spanish ]

Claudia, you are such a

beautiful dancer.

What do you love so much about

dancing with San Simón?

>> I love my music, so I feel

like I'm in Bolivia

when I'm dancing.

I think that's my -- the time

that I remember everything I

used to do there.

I'm listening to my music.

I love dancing.

I don't know how you do all the

dances, but...

You have to feel what you're


And when you do something with

love, of course, you're gonna

show that to the rest of the


>> That's beautiful.

>> I love my music.

>> Yeah.


When the music's playing,

Bolivians can't keep their feet

from moving.

That's why this restaurant is




From the Bolivian kitchen in

Queens, I make my way to

Port Chester, New York, into the

living room of Jerry Riveros,

a Bolivian-American who made

New York his home about 10 years


His Bolivian folkloric band

Markax Laiku Bolivia rehearses

here twice a week, practicing

the various traditional songs

and musical styles that come

from his home country.

>> [ Singing in Spanish ]

>> What is the name of this


>> Markax...

>> Markax...

>> Both: ...Laiku Bolivia.

>> Yep.

>> Markax Laiku...

>> And the translation is

"for my country."

>> "For my country."

>> Yeah.

>> Jerry, his two younger

brothers, his father, and a few

friends make up this band, and

they were all kind enough to

have me as an honorary member of

the group for the evening.

[ Siku plays softly ]


>> You're doing good.

>> No!

No! How do you do it?

'Cause they get in the way.

>> Yeah. You just have to,

like, point it to the tube.

[ Siku plays ]

>> Oh, man.

[ Siku playing softly ]

>> Yep.

>> Huh!

[ Siku playing softly ]

[ Siku playing ]

[ Siku playing softly ]

>> You did it!

>> High-five!


[ Sikus playing ]

The siku, or the Bolivian pan

flute, is an instrument

originating from the indigenous

Aymara people.

The siku is typically made of

bamboo shoots, and the

instrument ranges in size,

starting with the ika, or

chulli, which is the smallest

and creates the highest pitches.

The malta is the most common


The next octave lower is the

sanka, and largest and lowest

musical pitches of the family is

the toyo.

>> Well, since I was a little

kid, I used to love to play with

my dad.

>> This is your dad?!

>> Yeah. He's my dad.

>> What?!

>> [ Chuckles ]

>> This is a family affair, it

seems like.

>> Well, we didn't mean to make

it a family, but since I was

here, my father was here, and

the other two just joined the

group --

>> Your brothers.

>> Yeah, my brothers.


When I came here, I didn't know

how to play instruments.

But, like, the feeling you get

when you are far away from your

country, it's -- I cannot

explain it.

It's nostalgic. It's special.

One day, me and my brothers, we

started to just play it for fun,

and, little by little, I started

to grab the bigger, the

smallest, and, at the end, I

learned how to play the quena,

which is the most difficult.

[ Quena playing ]

It's a rain.

You call it "rain," right?

>> Yeah, the rain stick.

>> And it has the name of the


Here's the name of the band.

>> The rain stick is a hollow

tube filled with pebbles or

beans which fall through small

pins arranged inside.

Its sound emulates that of

falling water, and it was

believed to invoke rainstorms

during times of drought.

The instrument is believed to

have been invented by the

Aztecs, but there is speculation

that it may have originated with

the Incas.

Its sound is prevalent

throughout South America, with

variations of the same

instrument found in Africa,

Southeast Asia, and Australia.

>> So, what we do is, like, play

all kinds of music from each

part of Bolivia,

like, let's say from Santa Cruz,

Oruro, La Paz.

We try to play all types of

music from the cities.


Being away is really hard --

far from your family, your

friends, your culture,

and your country.

It's really hard, and you get

this feeling.

You just want to, like, do

something for your country,

contribute to your country, to

the culture far away from you.

I entered the group

eight years ago.

I cannot stop playing.

I just keep playing

more and more.

>> That's great.

>> It's hard to stop.


>> New York's Bolivian community

may not be the largest in the

United States, but its pride and

its heritage, cultural dances

and music, and folk traditions

are strong.

These pockets of families in

this tiny community stay

connected through song and


From one connection sparked by

love for the homeland, families

are formed, communities are

built, and stories are continued

to be passed on to generations.

Strength may be measured in

numbers, but it is also measured

in depth and in heart.

And New York's Bolivian-American

community has proven that.


And I'll see you on my next

"Bare Feet in NYC" adventure,

wherever it may take me!


[ Applause ]

Thanks, guys.

You can stay connected with

us on, where

you'll find extra bonus videos,

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media, and stay updated with our



I am here with two of the

dancers from San Simón,

Karina and Fabricia,

who are sisters.

Did I say that already? No.

>> Excellent food,

Bolivian food.

I'm sorry. What am I --

>> I don't know!

>> Here we go, you know?

We're so excited to eat.

>> Yeah. Let's go eat this food.

>> Yeah.

>> Let's go.

Let's do it again.


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