AP PHOTOS: Bolivians pay homage to skulls in annual festival

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  • A human skull wearing sun glasses is displayed outside the General Cemetary chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Every year, hundreds of Bolivians carry human skulls adorned with flowers to a cemetery in La Paz, asking for money, health, and other favors as part of a festival. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 1

    A woman carries a decorated human skull to the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. The ritual, celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead, also includes music, dance and the lighting of candles. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 2

    Women carry a decorated human skull after praying inside the General Cemetery chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. The ritual, celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead, also includes music, dance and the lighting of candles. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 3

    Humans skulls are displayed outside the General Cemetery chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Experts say it was common in pre-Columbian times to keep skulls as trophies and display them to symbolize death and rebirth. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 4

    Men carry decorated human skulls inside the General Cemetery chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. The festival is a mix of Andean ancestral worship and Catholic beliefs. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 5

    Cakes for guests sit during the Natitas Festival at a banquet hall in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Every year, hundreds of Bolivians carry human skulls adorned with flowers to a cemetery in La Paz, asking for money, health, and other favors as part of a festival. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 6

    People pray before skulls lined up on shelves during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead, Bolivians carry human skulls adorned with flowers to cemeteries asking for money, health, and other favors as part of a festival. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 7

    A person carries a human skull wearing a military hat outside the General Cemetery chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead, Bolivians carry human skulls adorned with flowers to cemeteries asking for money, health, and other favors as part of a festival. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 8

    A woman carries decorated human skulls inside the General Cemetery chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead, Bolivians carry human skulls adorned with flowers to cemeteries asking for money, health, and other favors as part of a festival. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 9

    Humans skulls holding cigarettes in their mouths sit on display outside the General Cemetery chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead, Bolivians carry human skulls adorned with flowers to cemeteries asking for money, health, and other favors as part of a festival. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • A human skull wearing sun glasses is displayed outside the General Cemetary chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Every year, hundreds of Bolivians carry human skulls adorned with flowers to a cemetery in La Paz, asking for money, health, and other favors as part of a festival. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 1

    A woman carries a decorated human skull to the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. The ritual, celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead, also includes music, dance and the lighting of candles. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 2

    Women carry a decorated human skull after praying inside the General Cemetery chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. The ritual, celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead, also includes music, dance and the lighting of candles. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 3

    Humans skulls are displayed outside the General Cemetery chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Experts say it was common in pre-Columbian times to keep skulls as trophies and display them to symbolize death and rebirth. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 4

    Men carry decorated human skulls inside the General Cemetery chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. The festival is a mix of Andean ancestral worship and Catholic beliefs. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 5

    Cakes for guests sit during the Natitas Festival at a banquet hall in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Every year, hundreds of Bolivians carry human skulls adorned with flowers to a cemetery in La Paz, asking for money, health, and other favors as part of a festival. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 6

    People pray before skulls lined up on shelves during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead, Bolivians carry human skulls adorned with flowers to cemeteries asking for money, health, and other favors as part of a festival. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 7

    A person carries a human skull wearing a military hat outside the General Cemetery chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead, Bolivians carry human skulls adorned with flowers to cemeteries asking for money, health, and other favors as part of a festival. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 8

    A woman carries decorated human skulls inside the General Cemetery chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead, Bolivians carry human skulls adorned with flowers to cemeteries asking for money, health, and other favors as part of a festival. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

  • 9

    Humans skulls holding cigarettes in their mouths sit on display outside the General Cemetery chapel during the Natitas Festival in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead, Bolivians carry human skulls adorned with flowers to cemeteries asking for money, health, and other favors as part of a festival. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) Esperanza Mozon asks a marching band to play "Happy Birthday" to the two human skulls she is carrying outside a cemetery chapel in Bolivia's capital.

Every year, hundreds of Bolivians like Mozon bring human skulls adorned with flowers to a cemetery in La Paz, asking for money, health and other favors as part of a festival.

Devotees showed up with the skulls, known as "natitas," for a short Mass on Wednesday. The ritual is celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead and includes music, dance and the lighting of candles.

The Roman Catholic Church considers the skull festival to be pagan, but it doesn't forbid people from taking part.

The festival is a mix of Andean ancestral worship and Catholic beliefs. Experts say it was common in pre-Columbian times to keep skulls as trophies and display them to symbolize death and rebirth.

Mozon named her skulls Amanda and Ron.

She got Amanda as a gift from her daughter when she was a medicine student 35 years ago. She says she found Ron in this same cemetery two decades ago.

"I think Ron was waiting for my little Amanda," Mozon said. "Every year, I do this because my 'natitas' take care of me and heal me when I'm ill."

        

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