Puno Candelaria Festival

Trip Start Aug 15, 2008
Trip End Aug 14, 2009

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Virgen de la Candelaria 2009 Fiesta

We were lucky to arrive at Puno at the start of a festival, the "Festividad de Virgen de la Candelaria" (Candlemass), the biggest festival in Peru. There were reported to be 40,000 people participating in this weeklong festival. The parade started at 7:30 Monday morning until 12:00 midnight in one continuous (or should I say, contiguous) parade through the streets. Dancers alternated with brass bands marching through the streets which were lined with spectators on raised stands.

The spectators stayed in their seats all day long so vendors mingled with the dances to keep them fed & watered. One enterprising woman had an array of food on an old rusty wheelborrow.

The costumes were fabulous, they were said to cost each person more than the rest of their wardrobe put together.

The Peruvians normally dress very conservatively, but these costumes give the young girls a chance to flash their knickers. The men were quite uninhibited in their dancing, although they hid behind masks most of the time. There are supposed to be 300 different dance steps that are used by the groups - certainly each troupe seemed to dance differently.

On the second day, there was a band competition in the square - my favourite was a brass band who played The Shadows old hit "Apache", with the drummers swinging their drums around as they danced. That took me back a few years (about 50 actually).
There was a drunk watching the band competition who would periodically put his bottle down & do a high kicking dance - he never fell over once !

Another spectator sport was spraying foam at the dancers or at spectators. We watched the parade from inside a restaurant but were afraid to leave because the kids outside were waiting to ambush us. There were many "older women" dancing in the parade who stopped every so often to have a surreptitious swig from a bottle of beer.
This festival carried on until late each night & as our hotel room overlooked the square, we were quite pleased when it finished so we could get some sleep.
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