Festivities in Peru

The spirit of the Peruvian people has given rise to a creative vein, which crops up in an endless variety of shapes, rhythms and rituals. Year after year, more than 3,000 folk festivals, 1,500 musical styles and countless arts and crafts confirm that Peru is home to one of the most varied folk legacies in the world.

Most of these festivals are dedicated to a patron saint, falling within the Christian calendar imposed during the Vice-regency, after having been carefully adapted to the magical and religious beliefs of a particular region.

Peru also hosts other celebrations that are exclusively pagan, such as those linked to the time-honored myths in jungle native communities and the countless festivals created over the past few centuries or decades.

A traditional Peruvian festival is, by nature, a space where all things, both sacred and profane, come together in a single manifestation of pride, vitality and sheer joy.

CALENDAR OF FESTIVITIES

JANUARY

Marinera Dance Festival
Trujillo (La Libertad) – January 20

The marinera is one of the most elegant dances in Peru. The dance involves a great
deal of flirting between a couple, who each twirls a handkerchief in their right hand
while keeping the beat during what is fairly complex choreography.
From January 20 to January 30, the Gran Chimu stadium in the city of Trujillo holds the
country’s most important marinera festival. During this festival, the city also hosts
processions involving floats, and the whole city takes on a festive air.

FEBRUARY

Virgen de La Candelaria
Puno – February 1 to 14

For 18 days, the highland town of Puno, nestled on the shores of Lake Titicaca,
becomes the Folk Capital of the Americas. The festival gathers more than 200 groups of
musicians and dancers to celebrate the “Mamacha” Candelaria.
For the first nine days, the mayordomos (those in charge of organizing the festivities),
decorate the church and sponsor Masses, banquets and fireworks displays. On the
main day, February 2, the virgin is led through the city in a colorful procession
comprising of priests, altar boys, the faithful, Christians and pagans carefully
maintaining the hierarchy.
At this point the troupes of musicians and dancers take the scene, performing and
dancing throughout the city. The “diablada”, main dance of the demons, was allegedly
dreamed up by a group of miners trapped in a mine who, in their desperation, resigned
their soul to the Virgen de la Candelaria.

Carnivals
2nd half of February to -1st week of March

For 18 days, the highland town of Puno, nestled on the shores of Lake Titicaca,
becomes the Folk Capital of the Americas. The festival gathers more than 200 groups of
musicians and dancers to celebrate the “Mamacha” Candelaria.

MARCH

Lunahuana Adventure Sports Festival
Cañete – Last week of March

The pleasant valley of Lunahuana, a paradise for adventure sports lovers, is just half an
hour from San Vicente de Cañete, a town 150 km south of Lima. The main attraction is
the fast running Cañete River, which features rapids up to Class IV. Each year, the valley
hosts a festival involving rafting, trekking, gliding, mountain biking and fishing
competitions.


Wine Festival
Ica – 2nd week of March

For 18 days, the highland town of Puno, nestled on the shores of Lake Titicaca,
becomes the Folk Capital of the Americas. The festival gathers more than 200 groups of
musicians and dancers to celebrate the “Mamacha” Candelaria.

The Crosses of Porcon
Porcon (Cajamarca) – 2nd half of March-1st week of April

Weaving through the early mists that still shroud the highlands, just before dawn, an
impressive procession of huge, colorful wooden crosses progresses down the valley of
Porcon to celebrate the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem.
Unlike other Easter Week celebrations, the one in this fun-loving village located half an
hour by road from the city of Cajamarca, does not dwell on the death of Christ. On the
main day of the festival -Palm Sunday- four different ceremonies are held: the crowning
of the crosses, the greeting of the Lord at the majordomo’s house (the person in charge
of organizing the festivities), the various responses sung in Quechua and Latin, and
finally the procession to the plantation chapel.
The crosses are decorated with round and oval shaped mirrors symbolizing the souls of
the dead, as well as figures representing the Virgin Mary, the Heart of Jesus and a
wealth of symmetrically placed patron saints forming a huge rhomboid.

APRIL

Easter
Ayacucho – 2nd half of March-1st week of April
Easter week represents the peak of religious sentiment for the people of the Andes. The
department capital of Ayacucho, San Cristobal de Huamanga, located in the central
Andes at an altitude of 2,761 m.a.s.l., celebrates one of the most interesting portrayals
of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.
The week starts out with the entry of Jesus into the city riding on a donkey. On
Wednesday, the images of the Virgin Mary and Saint John are paraded in fervent
processions through streets carpeted with flower petals until they meet up with the
devouts bearing the image of Christ, whom they greet in the main square. On the
evening of Holy Friday, the lights of the city are snuffed out to give way to the Christ of
Calvary.
The effigy of the Christ of Calvary sets out from the Monastery of Santa Clara in a
procession through the streets on a litter strewn with white roses, followed by the
grieving Virgin Mary and lines of men and women strictly dressed in mourning bearing lit
candles. The litter, which features thousands of white candles, is simply magnificent. The

litter is then accompanied with prayers and songs throughout the night until the three-
hour sermon is delivered on Saturday.

Resurrection Sunday takes on a festive air. Christ is resurrected and appears once more
on his litter and is carried through the streets.

Peruvian Paso Horse Festival
Pachacamac (Lima) – April 15 to 20

The Spanish horse, bred from the Arab stallion and reared in a desert environment,
which formed its gait, gave rise to the Peruvian Paso horse. For 300 years, the blood of
this new breed was improved upon until the Paso horse developed the characteristics
that have made it one of the worlds most beautiful and elegant breeds.
Breeders, Chalan riders and artisans, have worked on the art of ambladura -the
synchronized gait of the legs-, which in turn gave rise to the elegant steps, and dress of
the marinera. The most important competition is the National El Paso Horse Competition
held every year at the Mamacona stables near Pachacamac located 30 km south of
Lima.

MAY

Virgen de Chapi
Chapi (Arequipa) – May 1

Every year, thousands of pilgrims cross the desert from the city of Arequipa to the
sanctuary of Chapi to worship the image of the Virgin of Purification, today known as
the Virgen de Chapi.

Señor de Muruhuay
Acobamba (Junin) – May 3

Left to their fate by officials of the vice-regency, those ill with smallpox were allegedly
healed by an image of Christ that took shape on a stone slab at the food of Mount
Shalacoto (2,959 m.a.s.l.), and has remained there ever since.

Festival of the Crosses
Lima, Apurimac, Ayacucho, Junin, Ica, Cusco – May 3

The members of each community who decorate their Crosses and prepare them for
the procession to neighboring churches organize this festival, which is widespread in the
highlands. The festival often features folk music shows involving “danzantes de tijeras”
(scissors dancers). In ancient times, the danzaq or scissors dancers would perform their
daring feats on top of the church bell towers.

Qoyllur Rit’i
Quispicanchis (Cusco) – 1st week of May

Each year the people of the district of Ocongate (Quispicanchis) perform a ritual
whose external aspect appears to be the image of Christ, but whose real objective is to
bring Man closer to Nature. The ritual, associated with the fertility of the land and the
worship of Apus, the spirits of the mountains, forms part of the greatest festival of native
Indian nations in the hemisphere: Qoyllur Rit’i.

JUNE

Inti Raymi
Cusco – June 24

This is the most majestic pre-Hispanic ceremony to render homage to the sun. Today,
the Inti Raymi festival evokes the splendid Inca ritual of yore, being carefully scripted by
Cusco professors, archaeologists and historians. The central event is acted out on the
esplanade below the imposing fortress of Sacsayhuaman, 2 km outside the city of
Cusco.
There, step-by-step, thousands of actors enact a long ceremony giving thanks to Inti,
the Sun God. The Inca ruler is borne on a royal litter from the Koricancha, or Temple of
the Sun to the Huacaypata, the city’s main square, where he commands the local
authorities to govern fairly. Then all participants set out for Sacsayhuaman, where the
ceremony calls for the sacrifice of two llamas, one black and one white. With the
llama’s entrails, two high priests make predictions, which are interpreted by the Willac
Umo, the lord high priest, who bears the news to the Inca.
Finally, at sunset, the Inca orders all to withdraw from the site, and the entire city breaks
out into a festivity that will rage for several days.

San Juan
Cusco, Loreto, San Martin, Ucayali – June 24

Because of the importance of water in the jungle, Saint John the Baptist has taken on a
major symbolic significance as a vital element in the entire Amazon region. This is why
June 24 (Saint John the Baptist’s day) is the most important date on the festival
calendar in the entire Peruvian jungle.
The city of Iquitos hosts a variety of festivals and public events: fiestas with typical local
bands where cooks dish up some of the regional cuisine, featuring tacacho (baked
banana) and juanes (rice pastries), named after the patron saint, San Juan Bautista. In
Cusco, where peasant farmers used to bring their richly decorated sheep to Mass, the
tradition has been shifted to June 25, yielding to Inti Raymi.

Saint Peter & Saint Paul
Chorrillos and Lurin (Lima), San Jose (Lambayeque) – June 29

Together with the communal task of dredging irrigation ditches, highland communities
celebrate a veritable water festival. On the coast, fishing communities have chosen
Saint Peter as their patron saint, and render him homage in Limas fishing districts of
Chorrillos and Lurin, as well as in San Jose, located 13 km north of the city of Chiclayo.

Corpus Christi
Cusco – Moveable festivity

This festival has been celebrated all over Peru since colonial times, but reaches a high
point in Cusco. Fifteen saints and virgins from various districts are borne in a procession
to the Cathedral where they “greet” the body of Christ embodied in the Sacred Host,
kept in a gold goblet weighting 26 kilos and standing 1.2 meters high.

Sixty days after Easter Sunday, members of each nearby church bear their patron saint
in a procession to the chimes of the Maria Angola church bell. At night everyone
gathers together for an overnight vigil. At dawn, the procession sets off around the
main square, bearing the images of five virgins, plus the images of four saints: Sebastian,
Blas, Joseph and the Apostle Santiago. Then the saints enter the Cathedral to receive
homage.

JULY

Virgen del Carmen
Paucartambo – 2nd week of July (15-16)

Four hours from Cusco, in the town of Paucartambo, thousands of devotees hold
festivals in honor of the Virgen del Carmen, locally known as Mamacha Carmen,
patron saint of the mestizo population.

Independence Day
Pan-Peruvian – July 28 & 29

Across the country, Peruvians hold patriotic celebrations to remember the Declaration
of Peru’s Independence (July 28, 1821) by the Libertador Jose de San Martin.
In Lima and cities across Peru, even in remote communities, homes fly the Peruvian flag
from the beginning of July. On the following day, a military parade is held in downtown
Lima. In various parts of the country, Peruvians also hold agricultural and livestock fairs
(Cajamarca, Piura, Monsefu) together with three festivals that are the soul of Creole
culture: cockfighting, bullfighting and Peruvian Paso horses exhibitions.

AUGUST

Santa Rosa de Lima
Lima and Quives (Lima), Ocopa (Junin) and Arequipa – August 30

Santa Rosa de Lima was the name given to a 17th-century inhabitant of Lima, Isabel
Flores de Oliva, who felt a great religious vocation and dedicated her to being a
laywoman, without belonging to any religious order in particular. Veneration of her
figure spread not only in Peru but also to the Philippines. Her shrine as well as the
hermitage she herself built are located downtown Lima.
This celebration has a special Quechua emphasis in the town of Santa Rosa de Quives,
in the highlands of the Department of Lima.

SEPTEMBER

International Spring Festival
Trujillo (La Libertad)

The festival of spring is celebrated all over Peru, with especially colorful variants in the
jungle. Trujillo, capital of the department of La Libertad, has forged a particular
reputation for holding the festival of greatest splendor. It is intimately linked to the
marinera norteña.
The festival features various tournaments demonstrating the regional variations of this
dance. During the weeklong festival, streets and homes fill with decorations; floats are
paraded through the city, and troupes of school children dance through the streets,
led by the beauty queen of the spring pageant.

OCTOBER

The Lord of Miracles
Lima – October 18 to 28

The procession which gathers together the largest number of believers in South
America, dates back to colonial times, when a slave brought from Angola drew the
image of a black Christ on the walls of a wretched hut in the plantation of
Pachacamilla, near Lima. The image stayed on the wall despite several attempts to
erase it. It is today the most widely venerated image in the city of Lima.
The center of this celebration is one of the largest processions that take place every
year in the Americas, where tens of thousands of the faithful dress in purple tunics and
accompany the image. The litter, which bears the image, weighs two tons.

Señor de Luren
Ica – 3rd week of October

The origin of the devotion for the crucified Señor de Luren, patron of the city of Ica (300
km south of Lima) dates back to 1570, when the image was mysteriously lost in the
desert during a trip from Lima to Ica and reappeared in a desolate outpost called
Luren. On the main day of the festival, Sunday, the image is borne aloft in a procession
through the city from nightfall until dawn the following day.

NOVEMBER

The spirit of the Peruvian people has given rise to a creative vein, which crops up in an
endless variety of shapes, rhythms and rituals. Year after year, more than 3,000 folk
festivals, 1,500 musical styles and countless arts and crafts confirm that Peru is home to
one of the most varied folk legacies in the world.
Most of these festivals are dedicated to a patron saint, falling within the Christian
calendar imposed during the Vice-regency, after having been carefully adapted to
the magical and religious beliefs of a particular region.
Peru also hosts other celebrations that are exclusively pagan, such as those linked to
the time-honored myths in jungle native communities and the countless festivals
created over the past few centuries or decades.
A traditional Peruvian festival is, by nature, a space where all things, both sacred and
profane, come together in a single manifestation of pride, vitality and sheer joy.

DECEMBER

Andean Christmas
Pan-Peruvian – December 24 & 25

The rural context of the arrival of the infant Christ allowed early Peruvians to identify
immediately with the festivity highlighted by artisan creativity. The Andean Christmas
began taking on characteristics of its own by adding elements from each region. These
elements are put together in Nativity scenes in churches and homes: a wide range of
handicrafts such as Nativity scenes in Huamanga stone, retablos featuring images
related to Christmas and pottery or carved gourds called mates burilados, decorated
with Yuletide scenes.

Santuranticuy Fair
Cusco – December 24

The origin of this fair date back to the Vice-regency, and today has become one of the
largest arts and crafts fairs in Peru. In the main square of Cusco, artisans lay out blankets
on the sidewalks, as is the custom in traditional Andean fairs. Images carvers and
artisans sell a wide variety of figurines to liven up Christmas and fit out the Nativity
scenes that are set up in homes and parish churches. The fair also sells a variety of
ceramic objects brought from Pucara and Quinua. Here one can also find all sorts of
arts and crafts, such as wooden carvings, pottery and the boxed scenes called
retablos.

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