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Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria in Puno

City of Puno

Come to Peru for the best tour of your life, there is so much to see and do in this wonderful South American country. Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, with three different zones, the coast, the highlands and the jungle, all full of new and exciting things to discover. If you come to Peru in February, you will be able to witness one of the most colorful and wonderful festivals in South America, the Virgen de la Candelaria.

In the first two weeks of February, the city of Puno play’s host to this party of epic proportions. The party begins on February the 2nd, but the main parade is on February the 9th when all of the dancers from the previous parades return and everybody dances together all day until sunset. The week ends with a grand feast in the cemetery of all places, to celebrate with the dead.

On February the 2nd, the virgin who is housed in the Church of San Juan El Bautista, is lead through the streets along with the priests, altar boys, Christians and musicians all ready to join the festivities.

Virgin Candelaria

Who is the Virgin Candelaria you may ask? The virgin is a representation of the Virgin Mary. Tradition has it that the virgin had dark skin and was wearing a gold crown but here in Puno, the Virgin de Candelaria has light skin. Legend has it, that in the 17th Century, the Aymara rebels from the La Paz area sieged the city of Puno which was at the time occupied by over 12000 Spanish soldiers. Vastly outnumbered, the Spanish had no chance of victory. The people who lived in Puno at the time took the Virgin from the church and paraded through the streets of the village, the next day they say that the village was helped by the powers of the Virgin and the rebels fled ending the siege.

It is also said that the festival is linked to pre-Hispanic agricultural cycles of sowing and harvesting as well as the mining activities in the region. The festival is also a result of the Aymara gaiety and Quechua seriousness, which are the two local tongues.

This celebration features many different dances with the most famous being the Diablada, this dance is essential to the festival as it was created for a group of miners trapped for days and praying to the Lady of Candelaria for mercy, when dancing this dance, the performers dressed up in demon masks and as the god of the mines Jacancho. The dance concludes with the placing of flowers on the graves of the miners that did not survive.

You should not miss the dance competitions organized by the Regional Federation of Folklore and Culture of Puno; these competitions are between Native dancers that come from the communities of Puno and are organized into different districts. There are around fifty thousand dancers involved in the competition, dressed in colorful costumes, featuring masks and boots with bells, this competition is held at the Torres Belon Stadium.

Once all of the parades and dancing are finished, the dancers and musicians leave the stadium and go back to the city. The streets of Puno then become one giant party and a lot of alcohol is consumed. The party will last well into the night and the next morning. If you plan to join the festivities, then be careful of your belongings and leave most of your valuables in the hotel.

When considering a trip to Puno in early February, consider that the hotels will be booked well in advance. It is essential to book months in advance to get a room for this time in Puno. For some of the events, you will also need to purchase tickets in advance.

Uros Islands

While in Puno, you must also visit the wonderful floating islands of the Uros people. The Uros Islands ofLake Titicaca are like nothing else you will see in the world, these Islands are made completely out of the local reeds that are grown on the lake. The fascinating Uros people have lived on the lake for many centuries, it is said that they made the lake their home to escape the warring tribes on the mainland and have stayed there ever since. The people today, make a living from the visiting tourists but still retain a traditional way of life.

Lake titicaca

Where is Lake Titicaca you may ask? In the southernmost part of Peru on the border of Bolivia, the lake is considered one of the highest lakes in South America. On any Peruvian trip, you will want to visit Machu Picchu and the Cusco area.

Come to Puno in February and experience all of the spectacles of the Virgin de Candelaria, dance along with the local people and help them celebrate this wonderful tradition. While in Puno, see all that the area has to offer, book your tour to Peru and South America today. what are you waiting for!

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