During the first week of February one of the biggest popular festivals in Latin America takes place in Puno, Peru, in honour of the town’s patron, the Virgen de la Candelaria, who came with the Spanish conquistadores from the Canary Islands. It is a celebration in which the indigenous roots and worldview from the high Andes meet Christianity, evidencing once more the Latin American idiosyncrasies.
The town is transformed, culminating in three main celebrations: the procession of the Virgin through the streets of Puno; the Traje de Luces competition in the city’s stadium, in which over 50,000 dancers performed to packed stands – some groups have up to 800 dancers and more than five bands that accompany them; and the Parada de Veneración, once again taking the festivities to the streets, starting at 7am and running through until midnight, this year for the first time along the banks of Lake Titicaca.
The people dance out of pure devotion the Virgin, and the dedication is clear: participants can spend around US$2000 on their costume, although the majority hire them to a tune of US$300. Added to contributions for the bands, dancing in the party sets most back around US$500.
The dance was declared to be of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2014.
Guido Piotrkowski was there to capture the festivities.