The Festival of the Virgin of Carmen: July 16

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Nestled in the Andean highlands, quiet Peruvian villages become teeming centers of dance, music, and merrymaking every year on July 16th that lasts for three days.

 

The festival offers a blend of religious devotion and Incan tradition, with regional dance troupes decked out in ornate costumes and vibrant masks. The dancers retell battle stories and the traditional folklore of the Inca, while the masks commemorate those used for protection when vanquished Incan peoples danced in rebellion against Spanish rule.

 

Each village has a unique way of celebrating their culture and honoring the Virgin, also known by her Quechua name, Mamacha Carmen, in a festival that dates back several hundred years. In fishing villages along the coast, the Virgin is honored as the protector of mariners and fisherman. In one, she can be seen as cargo on a boat wreathed with flowers and followed by a fleet of fishing vessels known as jábegas. Elsewhere, a Malagueñon tradition sends divers to the bottom of the sea to pay their respects to a submerged image of the Virgin. Another town celebrates with fireworks, rockets, and the billowing melodies of a brass band. The largest celebration takes place in Paucartambo.

 

Wherever you may find yourself should you visit Peru on the Virgin’s birthday, you’ll find a vibrant scene that is both religiously hallowed and culturally rich.

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