Sunday, February 5, 2012

Candelaria Puno

February 2: Groundhog Day, Candlemass, Bridget's Day, the cross quarter between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. But in Puno, Peru, the first two weeks of February is the biggest festival of the year, Fiesta de la Candelaria, in honor of the patron saint of the city, La Virgen de la Candelaria, and one of the biggest festivals in South America. We timed our visit to Peru this year to be able to attend.

Oops, sideways and this computer won't let me change it, but see the flower petals poured from the upper story window.

Feb. 2 itself is a solemn day. After mass in the big church in the Plaza de Armas, a procession of people emerges, carrying the large statue of the Virgin all decorated with flowers. The parade is led by indigenous musicians playing pan pipes and drums with full skirted dancers. Priestly people walk near the statue, which is followed by several more indigenous music and dance groups. Everyone throws flowers on the statue in veneration and prayer. As the parade proceeds though the downtown streets, in every block, a few second and third story windows are decorated with a white cloth, which signals the statue to stop. From the windows people would extend a long pole with a basket full of flower petals which they would pour over the statue, retract, refill, and pour again.

The cool part was that groups of people decorated the street in front of the procession--I mean the street itself.
They took dyed sawdust and chalk and flower petals and made complex and beautiful "paintings" right on the pavement. Any part of the parade that was in front of the Virgen walked around the paintings so that those carrying the statue walked on the fresh artwork. Of course it was destroyed after all the walkers and dancers, and then the street cleaners came and swept it all up. Sort of like sand paintings, expressions of devotion and impermanence.

Beautiful, but possibly the slowest parade I've ever witnessed. Sam and I went for a little hike after walking the whole route to watch the street paintings being created and returned soon enough to watch the end of the procession.
Indigenous Dances, February 5 I've ducked into this internet place because it is pouring rain on the parade right now, and can't post pictures until I've saved from my camera, so you're out of luck right now. Because today was the most colorful, fun, rhythmic day you can imagine. Sam and I got up early to go to the Stadium to watch the Indigenous dance competition.

See how the dance group is in formation on the stadium floor.

82 groups performed, starting at 7:00am and ending around 6:00pm. We missed the first and last 5 groups. Some groups had at least 150 dancers and musicians. I'd love to post a video, so much movement and sound, but no luck with rented computers.

After performing in the stadium, the dance groups perform in the street! Even in the rain!! The following are street pictures:
It's a close up parade of the groups we watched from up in the bleachers in the Stadium. I'm tapping and twirling with them, the beat grabs my body and reaches into my soul.

February 11-13 Danzas Mestizas

We skipped the stadium performances in favor of the street. As dance groups completed their stadium performances they paraded through the streets with their bands and dancers. They had no set parade route on Sunday, so we would catch groups on different streets, sometimes with crowds of spectators and sometimes with more room to watch and enjoy. This weekend's dances are not purely indigenous, but a mix of the history of Peru, as one dancer told me, a mix of everything. Many dances have traditional costumes and steps and themes--and names.

The dancers were very friendly and invited people to have their pictures taken with them. Here is Natalia with a dancer:

The dancers removed their masks to take a break and even danced with their heavy masks in their hands. This picture was taken from our hotel window to the street below, a Diablada mask on TOP of the dancer's head!

More friendly dancers with Sam.

Several dance groups took a nice long break on the street in front of our hotel, so Sam and I joined them. They were totally enthusiastic about us being there, "Welcome to Peru! Welcome to Puno and Candelaria!" One woman in a gold full skirt and multiple peticoats and long fringed shawl, who told me she was from Cusco but her husband from Puno, took my hands and had me dancing and twirling with her. Such fun and such welcoming energy.

Tonight a group of men with sparkly embroidery on their outfits, bells on their boots, whooping it up in leaps and jumps, twirling and waving their hats in the air. Wow!

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