Watching some 15,000 musicians and 50,000 indigenous dancers performing around 200 different native dances was definitely a show not to be missed while we were in Puno, Peru. The Fiesta de la Candelaria is a festival held in honour of the Virgin of Candelaria, patron saint of Puno. It is the most important festival in Peru and one of the three largest festivals in South America along with the Rio and Oruro carnivals.
Whilst the Rio carnival is famous for the amount of sun-kissed skin on display, Puno’s festival is a much more traditional affair where indigenous peoples dress up in all kinds of colourful outfits, costumes, and masks and dance the day (and night) away to the ceaseless rhythms provided by musicians young and old. Many also seemed to be spurred on by sneaky sips of well concealed cans of cerveza along the way and frankly, who can blame them
The highlight of the dance procession for me was the “diablada”, a dance which traces it roots back to the legend of Peruvian miners trapped underground. While trapped they apparently saw an army of devils but because they all prayed to the virgin of Candelaria, she kept the devil from their backs and ensured they were all eventually rescued. The young men performing the dance at the festival were full of energy and highly impressive acrobatic moves. Just how they managed to keep dancing like that at an altitude of 3,800m is beyond me.
As you can see the festival of the virgin of Candelaria really is an explosion of colours and costumes. Have you ever been to an indigenous festival or alternatively have you ever been trapped in a mine and danced with the devil?