Starting today until February 18th, Puno will celebrate the Virgen de La Candelaria. This celebration is linked to the pre-Hispanic agricultural cycles of sowing and harvesting and is an opportunity for people to honor and show their devotion and thanks to the Virgin for her blessings. However, the blending of ancient Incan religious beliefs and Christianity has created a unique celebration of the feast, where the Virgin is associated with the Inca’s Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Lake Titicaca, the birthplace of the Inca empire. Thus, the celebration is also known as Mamacha Candelaria – the blending of Inca and Christianity and Quechua (the language of the Inca) and Spanish.
During this time, Puno becomes the Folk Capital of the Americas with more than 200 groups of musicians and dancers participating in the celebrations honoring the Virigin Mary/Mamacha; the celebration continues as a prelude to Carnival. On the main day, February 2, the Virgin is led through the city in a colorful procession. The famous dance of the demons, numerous masses, banquets and a fireworks display are all a sight to see! To end the celebrations, the dancers who fill the streets finally head to the cemetery to pay homage to the dead.
If you will be in Peru during this time, we highly recommend that you make your way down to Puno to see this festival! While celebrated by Catholics around the world, this festival in Peru is primarily celebrated in Puno and would make a great addition to seeing the Lake – the world’s highest navigable lake!