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Peruvian Fiestas : Virgen del Carmen

Virgen del Carmen, Peru

VIRGEN DEL CARMEN

Four hours from Cuzco, in the town of Paucartambo, thousands of devotees hold festivals in honor of the Virgen del Carmen, known locally as Mamacha Carmen, patron saint of the mestizo population. The gathering, that raises the curtain on these days of celebrations is held in the main square, where troupes of musicians play their instruments while richly dressed choirs sing in Quechua. The setting gives way to a series of ingenious choreographies that portray events in Peruvian history.

For five days, dance companies in various costumes (Doctorcitos, Waca Waca, Sarjas) take to the streets to accompany the Mamacha throughout the entire procession through the main square, the church and the city streets. On the main day, the virgin is borne aloft in a procession to bless those present and scare away demons. The dancers take to the housetops, performing daring gymnastics, showing off their colorful Inca and colonial garb. At the end of the procession, war is waged on the demons, from which the faithful emerge in triumph. Finally, the gathering ends up in the cemetery to render homage to the souls of the dead.

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