Legend of the Candelaria Festival
The festival is internationally known to be a celebration in honor of the Virgin Candelaria, the patron saint of the city of Puno. Like with most festivals in Peru, however, there is much more to the festival. Many holidays in Peru are a combination of ancient Andean traditions and the Christian influence of the Spanish conquistadores.
The festival of the Virgen Candelaria actually goes back to the Andean celebration of Mother Earth, the figure of Pachamama. Originally, the whole region around Lake Titicaca, which is known today as Bolivia, honored Pachamama throughout these days in order to have a rich harvest and favorable weather.
With the arrival of the Spanish, this agricultural related honoring of Mother Earth was changed into a celebration of the Virgen de la Candelaria.
Celebration of the Candelaria Festival today
The Festival de la Candelaria is the most important festival of the region.
During the festivity, which takes place throughout the first two weeks of February, Puno is filled with artists, performers, colorful parades, and national and international tourists. Over 82 folkloric groups, 66 other traditional dance groups and 25,000 musicians take over the streets of Puno. The costumes and masks displayed at Virgen de la Candelaria are some of the most fantastic artistic works in all of Peru.
The Diablada, the dance of the devil masks, is the highlight of the festival; dance groups wearing elaborate costumes and masks compete for the best presentation. This central spectacle of the Virgen de la Candelaria festival takes up an entire day and is even transmitted on national television.