La Candelaria Feast

In the city of Puno takes place one of the biggest catholic feasts in Peru, the “Candelaria”. During 16 days, from the 2nd to the 18th of February, the catholic devotion and the carnival spirit mix in the streets, and thousands of dancers and musicians go over the city in an endless parade.

The feast starts before dawn on February 2nd, at the moment when the major and other authorities go to the top of a hill to present their honors to the Virgin Mary, patron of the city of Puno. Then, with the first rays of light, they descend again to the city among firecrackers, bands and dancers, toward the San Juan Bautista Church, sanctuary of the image of “Virgen de la Candelaria”. After the mass, the first procession of the image of “Virgen de la Candelaria” takes place. At afternoon, the people from the countryside enter to the city on horses accompanied by the “yachiris” (shamans and witch-doctors) who present their honors to the image either.

On the first Sunday of February, a big competition takes place on the stadium of the city. Group of dancers from different towns and communities come to Puno to compete in an incredible contest of typical dances. The mean group size is 100 people among dancers and musicians and they perform a choreography wearing typical costumes. The number of groups is around 70 and each one has the chance to compete and perform in the stadium. They compete in honor of the “Virgen de la Candelaria” and for the proud of its town or community. After the contest, the group of dancers continue dancing on the streets, that turns the city in a huge party for the next 7 days.

Nevertheless, the real party starts on the 8th day of the feast, during the next 8 days the streets will be taken by hundreds of people. Huge parades, some of them as big as 300 people, all dressed up with amazing outfits of devils and demons, will fill the city with music and magic. This is another competition between the neighbors of the city who organize these parades and perform it on the last 8 days of the feast. The prize goes to the parade with the best outfits and performance. The outfit includes heavy masks and dresses with mirrors and jewels. Most of it have been done only for the feast.

Finally, the celebrations end on the 18th, but only until the next year that the neighbors of Puno will take again the streets to dance in honor of their patron, the “Virgen de la Candelaria”.