Every year during February, Peru, and especially Puno, prepare everything to be ready for one of the biggest religious manifestations and catalogued as Cultural Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO: To celebrate the festivity of the Candelaria Virgin.
The Candelaria Virgin comes from the catholic religion that has its origins in Tenerife, Spain. Its etymology is candela, which in spanish means “light” and talks about the divine light that guides us through the good path as well as intensifies the faith in God.
The festivity starts on February 2nd, exactly 40 days after Christmas, and that’s to commemorate the arrival of Jesus Christ at the Temple of Jerusalen. It’s also one of the oldest festivities on behalf of the Virgin because it was issued by Pope Gelasio I in the year 496.
Here in Peru, back into the inca times the andean people were so close-minded that only perceived as their true gods nature elements such as the Sun, the Moon, the Lightning. This means that when the Spaniards were imposing their traditions and beliefs between them, it must’ve been pretty though to teach catholicism, so, what they came up with was that at the moment everybody was around the Virgin’s portrait adoring her, they put at the bottom two little portraits, one of the Sun and the other of the Moon, and as a result, it would be like the andean people were also adoring and praying to the Virgin… Good strategy, isn’t it?
There’s also a myth about an apparition of this Virgin in Puno during the Pacific War. So, there was one time that the Chilean troops found a very old lady and decided to kill her, however shortly after that happened there was a huge natural disaster. Some time later, one day a group of farmers found a portrait of the Virgin all covered in mud. They cleaned it and then started the devotion.
The first two weeks of february are filled with so much music, dances and people from all the world. You really can feel the multiculturalism!
The thing is that, Puno, as it’s located right next to Bolivia, they share what we call the Altiplano, which is why both countries share some music and dances such as Diablada, Morenada, Caporales. And this is some sort of controversial point because some Bolivians say that we want to steal their heritage, but in fact, we’re just trying to promote it, especially the Caporales, dance created by the Estrada-Pacheco brothers but adapted to different styles, some of them more elegant than the others.
The first week, native dances take place from the competition at the Enrique Torres Belon Stadium and then do a crosswalk around different streets. The second week it’s time for the dance groups that come especially from Lima to perform the dances from the Altiplano (the ones I listed above). And even thought it’s it’s a competition, it really doesn’t matter who wins and who loses, because the most exciting thing is the fact of performing right at that stadium and feature on national TV as a representation of peruvian folklore.
It’s really enjoyable because you get all caught up by the energy of the dancers, and as dancer (like I was) you also get motivated by the energy of the public, cause’ here tiredness and soreness don’t matter anymore, it’s our devotion that keeps us going. ♡
So, all I can say is that it’s a party, a street party, where you just go to your hotel to change, sleep for a few hours and get ready to go out again. But of course, the first day you should stay and rest in order to avoid altitude sickness.
Finally, besides of all the folclore, this region has magnificent places too that I’m sure you won’t like to miss, you can interact so well with locals because they know so much about tourism, most of them know english too.
Alright then, this is a kind of summary of my experience as a dancer and tourist at the same time… And I won’t regret it! Even thought I couldn’t make it for the official parade cause’ my feet were just hurting so badly… But I already made my promise for next year to the Virgin, and I’ll do it ♡
This is something you’ll never forget or regret, really. If you have the chance, please come see and LIVE CANDELARIA.
(And if you’re already interested, I’m selling a full package for next year including Lima, Puno and Cusco. Just hit Book Now ☺)
See you on the next adventure,
P.S. then I’ll be updating more must visit and dos in Puno.