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Peru celebrates some 3,000 festivals a year. These are
some of the most vibrant in the Americas and a highlight
of virtually any visit.
The festivals in Peru have different
motives. Some are religious celebrations honoring Christ,
the Virgin Mary and the patron saints. In these are
solemn processions like the Holy week in Ayacucho or
the procession of the Lord of the Miracles in Lima.
Other motives are celebrations for the harvests, the
spring season and the carnivals.
A unique festival in the world is
the competition of caballo de paso a fine breed of horses
with a tipping gait that has made them known worlwide.
In rural areas of the country, where
life can be extremely difficult and poverty is widespread,
these festivals are appropriate escapes for many peruvians
to enjoy. The food is abundant as well as the alcoholic
drinks, usually chicha, a drink made from fermented
maize. It is amazing the variety of intrincated handmade
costumes as well as the impressive masks exhibiting
in some festivals.
According to our criteria, the main
- Transfer of Authority
- Virgen de la Candelaria (February)
- Carnivals ( February)
- Wine festival (March)
- Holy Week ( March)
- Peruvian Paso Horse Competition (April)
- Q'oyllur Riti (May)
- Inti Raymi (June)
- International Spring Festival (September)
- Lord of Miracles (October)
Transfer of Authority
At the start of every year; the
elders of each community in the area (the yayas) come
together to designate the candidates who are to become
the highest authorities of their villages: the Varayocs
In a festival that features gallons of chicha (maize
beer) and llonque (sugarcane alcohol), the mayor or
Varayoc receives the scepter or vara that symbolizes
his power. This pre-Hispanic custom has glossed over
whith Occidental formalities.
The varas are crafted from local wood varietes such
as chonta palm, black hualtaco, huallacán or
membrillo, measure around a meter in length and are
inlaid with gold and silver (Cuzco’s Town Hall
features a small museum that exhibits some superb examples).
When a Varayoc steps down from his post, he ceases to
hold any post in his community ever again, and becomes
one of the venerable elders.
Virgen de la Candelaria:
faith in the folk capital of the Americas
18 days, the highland town of Puno, nestled on the shores
of Lake Titicaca at an altitude of 3,870 meters (12,693
feet) above sea level becomes the Folk Capital of the
Americas . The festival gathers more than 200 groups
of musicians and dancers to celebrate the Mamacha Candelaria.
For the first nine days, the mayordomos (those in charge
of organizjng the festivities), decorate the church
and pay for Mass, banquets and fireworks displays. One
the main day, February 2, the virgin is led through
the .city in a colorful procession comprising priests,
altar boys and the faithful, Christians and pagans carefully
maintainig the hlerarchy. This is the moment when the
troupes musicians and dancers take the scene, performing
and dancing throughout the city. The festival is linked
to the pre-Hispanic agricultural cycles of sowing and
harvesting, as well as mining activities in the region.
It is the result of a blend of respectful Aymara gaiety
and ancestral Quechua , seriousness. The dance of the
demons, or diablada , the main dance of the festival,
was allegedly dreamed by a group of miners trapped down
a mine who, in their desperation, resigned their souls
to the Virgen de la Candelaria. The dancers. blowing
zampoña pan-pipes and clad in spectacular costumes
and outlandish masks, make their offerings to the earth
goddess Pachamama. The masks most imprensive for their
terrifying aspect, are those of the deer fitted with
long twisted horns sjmilar to the Devil. and Jacancho.
the god of minerals. During the farewell. or cacharpari.
the dancers who fill the streets finally head to the
cemetery to render homage to the dead.
the festival of joy
All over Peru.
carnivals are marked by the festive character of Andean
areas, which regularly break their solemn traditions.
Beyond regional variations, a common characteristic
of nearly the entire highland chain is the ritual of
the yunza, called umisha in the jungle and cortamonte,
on the coast. It involves artificially planting a tree
trunk laden with gifts, which the guests dance around
until it is chopped with a machete or an ax. The couple
who make the final hack that brings down the tree will
then both be in charge of organizing the yunza next
year. Peruvians across the country are extremely fond
of tossing buckets of water at each other during this
festival, so onlookers would be wise to take precautions.
Cities where carnivals reach a high include Cajamarca
A miracle in the desert
2nd week of March
This festival is a celebrebration of the abundance of
grapes and wine in the region of Ica (a four-hour drive
south of Lima), where persevering efforts in local vineyards
have spread greenery across vast tracts of once bone-dry
The Wine Festival (Festival de la Vendimia) involves
fairs, competitions, processions of floats, musical
festivals and parties where guests dance the Afro-Peruvian
One of the major attractions of
the event is the Queen of the Wine Festival beaty pageant.
Accompanied by her hand-maidens. The beauty queen accompanied
by her hand-maidens treads grapes in a vat in the time-honored
tradition to extract the juice that will eventually
be fermented Apart from the delicious local sweets known
as tejas,made from pecans or candied fruits, filled
with caramel and covered with sugar icing,those attending
the event can try pisco,the aromatic and tasty grape
brandy that originated in this part of southern Peru
four centures ago.
The fervor of Ayacucho
Holy Week represent the peak of religious sentiment
for the people of the Andes. The departmental capital
of Ayacucho, Ayacucho located in the central Andes at
an altitude of 2,761 meters (9,056 feet) above sea level,
celebrates one of the most intense portrayals of the
passion, death and resurrection of Christ.
The week starts out with the entry
of Jesus riding on a donkey into the city. On Wednesday,
the images of the Virgin Mary and Saint John are paraded
in fervent processions through streets carpeted with
flower petals until they meet up with the litter bearing
the image of Christ, whom they “greet” in
the main square. On the evening of Holy Friday, the
lights of the city wink out to give way to the Christ
of Calvary. The image sets out from the Monastery of
Santa Clara in a procession through the streets on a
litter strewn with white roses, followed by the grieving
Virgin Mary and lines of men and women strictly dressed
in mourning bearing lit candles. The litter, which features
thousands of white candles, is simply magnificent.
The litter is then accompanied with
prayers and songs throughout the night until the three-hour
sermon is delivered on Saturday. Resurrection Sunday
takes on a festive air and after days of grieving. Christ
is resurrected and appears once more on his litter and
is carried through the streets.
Paso Horse Competition
April: 15- 20
Spanish horse, bred with the Arab stallion and reared
in a desert enviroment, which formed its gait, gave
rise to the Peruvian Paso horse . For 300 years, the
blood of this new breed was improved upon until the
Paso horse developed the characteristics that have made
it one of the world's most beautiful and elegant breeds
Breeders, chaIán riders and artisans, over the
years, have worked on the art of ambladura.
The synchronized gait of the fore
and hindlegs- which in turn gave rise to the elegant
steps and dress of the marinera. The entire costume
comprises the saddle and trimmings and the splendid
outfit of the chalán himself (white shirt and
trousers. wide-brimmed straw hat. vicuña wool
poncho. handkerchief, boots and spurs).
This tradition, which has been exported all over the
world, has been spurred on by a number of competitions
both along the Peruvian coast as well as in the highlands.
The most important competition however; is the National
El Paso Horse Competition held every year at Mamacona
stables near Pachacámac located 30 km (19 miles)
south of Lima.
Riti. The greatest indigenous pilgrimage in the Americas
Date: May (1 st week)
Each year the people of the
district of Ocongate (Quispicanchis) perfom a ritual
whose external aspect appears to be the image of Christ,
but whose real objective is to bring Man closer to Nature
. The ritual, associated with the fertility of the land
and the worship of Apus, the spirits of the mountains,
forms part of the greatest festival of native Indian
nations in the hemisphere: Qoyllur Rit'i. The main ceremony
is held at the foot of Mount Ausangate, at 4,700 meters
(15,416 feet), above sea level, where temperatures often
plunge below freezing. The ritual brings thousands of
pilgrims, including shepherds, traders and
the merely curious who gather at the shrine at Sinakara.
Popular belief has it that the infant Christ, dressed
as a shepherd, appeared to a young highland Indian boy,
Marianito Mayta, and they quickly became friends. When
Mayta's parents found them dressed in rich tunics, they
informed the local parish priest, Pedro de Landa, who
attempted in vain to capture the infant Christ who had
disappeared and left behind only a stone. Marianito
died immediately, and the image of the Lord of Qoyllur
Rit'i appeared on the stone. Today, the festival starts
off with the day of the Holy Trinity, when more than
10,000 pilgrims climb to the snowline, accompanied by
all sorts of dancers in full costume (chauchos, qollas,
pabluchas or ukukus and various mythical characters).
The ukukus, or bears, are the guardians of the Lord
the Apu mountain spirits, and apachetas, stone cairns
built along the way by pilgrims to atone for their sins.
The ukukus maintain order during religious ceremonies.
A group of hefty queros, members of what is probably
Peru´s purest Quechua community, dress up as 'pabluchas
and set out for the mountaintop, at 6,362 meters (20,867
feet), in search of the Snow Star which is reputedly
buried within the mountain.
On their way back down to their communities. they haul
massive blocks of ice on their backs for the symbolic
irrigation of their lands with holy water from the Ausangate.
The Inca festival of the Sun
Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere and the local
harvests are the driving force behind the greatest,
most majestic pre-Hispanic ceremony to render homage
to the sun. Today, the Inti Raymi festival evokes the
splendid Inca ritual of yore, being carefully scripted
by Cuzco professors, archaeologists and historians.
The central event is acted out on the esplanade below
the imposing fortress of Sacsayhuamán, 2 km (1
mille) outside the city of Cuzco, easily reached by
car or on foot. There, step by step, thousands of actors
enact a long ceremony giving thanks to the sun god,
Inti. The Inca ruler is borne on a royal litter from
the Koricancha. or Temple of the Sun to the Huacaypat,
the city's main square, where he commands the local
authorities to govern fairly.
Then all the participants set out
for Sacsayhuamán, where the ceremony calls for
the sacrifice of two llamas. one black and one white.
The llamas entrails and fat are handed to a pair of
high priests: the first. the Callpa Ricuy, examines
the intestines to predict what sort of year lies ahead;
while the second priest the Wupariruj, makes his predictions
based on the smoke that wafts up from the burning fat.
The high priests' predictions are then interpreted by
the Willac Umo, the lord hig priest who bears the news
to the Inca. Finally, at sunset, the Inca orders all
to withdraw from the site, and the entire city breaks
out into festivities that will rage for several days.
Final week of September
festival of spring is celebrated all over Peru, with
especially colorful variants in the jungle. Trujillo,
capital of the departament of La Libertad however, has
forged a particular reputation for holding the festival
of greatest splendor . This festival is intimately linked
to the marinera norteña, which is always danced
by a couple, waving a handkerchief in the air to keep
time. The festival features various tournaments demonstrating
the regional variations of this dance. During the week-long
festival, streets and homes fill with decorations, floats
are paraded through the city, and troupes of schoolchildren
dance through the streets, led by the beauty queen of
the spring pageant. The beauty queen is, always flanked
by drum majorettes who travel here from all over the
world to show off their skills.
Lord of Miracles: The largest procession in South America
procession , which gathers together the largest number
of believers in South America, dates back to colonial
times, when a slave, brought over from Angola, drew
the image of a black Christ on the walls of a wretched
hut in the plantation of Pachacamilla, near Lima. The
image stayed on the wall despite several attempts to
erase it. This was to spark widespread devotion for
the image,which survived intact on the wall despite
an earthquake in 1746 which leveled all surrounding
buildings. As a result of this event, worship of the
image rose to new heights, until it became what is today
the most widely venerated image in the city of Lima.
The heart of the celebration is one of the largest processions
to take place every year in the Americas, where tens
of thousands of the faithful dress in purple tunics,
singing hymns and praying as they accompany the image.
The litter which bears
the painting weighs two tons and is borne on the shoulders
of believers who set out on the traditional 24-hour
procession from the church of Las Nazarenas, crossing
downtown Lima until it reaches the church of La Merced
in Barrios Altos. Around this time of year, the streets
fill with vendors of a wide variety of typical dishes
and sweets, such as the famous Turrón de Doña
Pepa. In October to commemorate the Lord of Miracles
(Señor de los Milagros), Lima hosts the well-known
bullfight season which carries the same name and is
held in the centuries-old Plaza de Acho bullring. The
season features some major bullfighters (toreros) from
Spain and Latin America.