During February of each year, the shores of Lake Titicaca are the scene of one of the most colorful and joyous festivals in Peru.
The Candelaria Festival in Perú is a surprising fusion of colonial religious tradition with deep-rooted customs and its veneration of the Virgin. For her, Puno is considered the folkloric capital of America and is the Diablada, one of the most colorful and representative dances of this festival, where more than 40,000 dancers and 200 musical bands express all their devotion to the fullest through their wonderful costumes and an energy that makes them dance for two full weeks.
The more than 125,000 inhabitants of the capital of the altiplano region and the more than 100,000 visitors from various regions of Peru and foreign tourists await with expectation the start of this festival that pays tribute to the patron saint of Puno.
From Friday, February 2 to Tuesday, February 13, the main activities of the festival declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation, in 2003, and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, in 2014, by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco).
More than 40,000 dancers and around 9,000 musicians from all over Puno and other regions of Peru participate in these festivities, who constitute the artistic framework that fills with joy and adorns a religious tradition that is based on the veneration of the mother of Christ. for several centuries.
On the eve of the official start of the festival, the so-called “dawn mass” will be held at 06:00 hours, and at the end of it a fireworks burn will take place. In the afternoon, a bonfire is lit in front of the San Juan Bautista parish, founded in 1562, and which since 1988 was proclaimed as a sanctuary of the Virgen de la Candelaria.
On Friday, February 2, the morning mass will be celebrated and in the afternoon the litters of the Virgen de la Candelaria go out in procession accompanied by a multitude of faithful who cross the main streets of the city of Puno.
On February 4, one of the main tourist attractions of the festival will take place: the parade with the presentation of more than 300 dances that make Puno the «Capital of Peruvian folklore». Among the dances, the emblematic Diablada stands out, which characterizes this highland celebration, as well as others with a long tradition such as Sicuris, Chacareros, Llameritos, Yapuchiris, Caporales, Tinti Wacas, Casarasiris, Tucumanos, among others.
On February 9, the bands of musicians will arrive for the contest with tremendous receptions in squares and neighborhoods. In their wake they play their best musical retreats, starting at 6:00 p.m.
On February 10, dawn masses will be held, starting at 05:00 and until after noon, at the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Candelaria. Dancers, bands and the general public attend this event.
In the afternoon, starting at 3:00 p.m., all the bands of musicians that accompany the dance groups enter the center of the city. And from 7:00 pm, the «eve of the Eighth of the Party» will begin, where all the groups of musicians and dancers dressed in elegant costumes go out into the streets to honor the also called Mamita Candelaria. The celebration culminates with the burning of fireworks.
On February 11, the Great Regional Dance Contest will take place at the Enrique Torres Belón stadium in Puno. It will start from 07:00 and will last until 17:00. In the afternoon and evening some groups dance through the city center.
On February 13, the Great Veneration of the Virgin of Candelaria will take place, with a procession that covers more than 4 kilometers, which is accompanied by groups of dancers and musicians who pour out into this massive celebration.
The following days there are also zonal parades in the north and south of the city. On Sunday 18 the closing ceremony will be held and prizes will be awarded from the Virgen de la Candelaria Regional Dance Competition.
Here are the best known stories about the origins of this religious festival.
It is said that in times of the struggles between the patriot army against the viceregal, the city of Puno was besieged by a large group of rebels led by the Aymara leader Túpac Catari and Pedro Vilcapaza de Azángaro, who continued the revolution started by Túpac Amaru II.
In the first months of 1781, the rebels tried to take the city, the small number of settlers defended themselves with great courage, but their numerical inferiority did not give a fight to such a fierce attack.
Desperate the residents chose to take the virgin out in procession, after imploring his protection throughout the night, the residents watched in astonishment as the enraged besiegers left the place.
The Virgin appeared to a native of the area who cared for his master’s hamlet, which was located on the banks of a stream on the slopes of Cerro Huajsapata.
She had the appearance of an elegant lady with a serene face, with a child in her arms. The Virgin asked her permission to wash her son’s clothes in the stream in exchange for taking care of the property until his return.
When the native returned to his master, who did not believe this story, they found the bust of the Virgin, dressed in white, with her clothes still wet.
More about the Candelaria Festival in Perú
Organized by the Regional Federation of Folklore and Culture of Puno, the Candelaria Festival is the largest event in Perú and the third largest cultural event in South America after the Rio de Janeiro Carnival and the Oruro Carnival in artistic and cultural terms.
The Candelaria Festival in Perú has been held without fail since 1960. Depending on the year, there may be up to 50,000 dancers and 15,000 musicians participating and up to 25,000 people involved in other elements of the festival, such as costume making and sponsorship.
Preparation for the Candelaria Festival in Perú begins in early December. The festival begins on February 2, the main date of adoration to the Virgen de la Candelaria.
Day by day – specific calendar 2020
Each year, the days of the festival follow a similar schedule. This is the specific 2020 calendar for the Candlemas Festival:
January 24 to February 1st
The ninth liturgical ceremony takes place in the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Candelaria. During this period, particularly on February 1, the authorities, «K’apos» and local communities arrive in the city. Some of them bring herbs for a campfire that will be lit after the fireworks in the afternoon.
This is the main day of the festival. Masses, dances and celebrations take place throughout the day from early in the morning. At 2 pm the solemn «Virgen de la Candelaria Procession» begins.
A colorful cultural dance competition is held as a tribute to the Virgen de la Candelaria. This is a fun celebration filled with music, dance, and culture. The contestants in the competition are decked out in native garb and eccentric masks.
Dance competitions for the little ones, some even without costumes, are held in the streets and squares of Puno. The place will be full of festivities. From 6pm. music shows begin.
At 5:00 am, the Masses of Albas are celebrated in the sanctuary of the Virgen de la Candelaria. This event is also attended by most people, particularly those involved in the festivities, such as musicians and dancers.
Then, in the afternoon, the bands and dancers head to the city center, and at 7 p.m., the Vespers of the eighth party begin. Tonight also ends with a fireworks display.
The day of the «Great Light Costume Contest». On this day, the dancers perform from 7 a.m. until 5 pm.
February 12th and 13th
The festivities continue these days with the «Great Veneration of the Virgen de la Candelaria», where the dancers parade for 4 km in celebration of the Virgen de la Candelaria and, again, it is filled with music and color.
The parades continue in different destinations around Puno during the last days of the Candelaria Festival in Perú. Then, to end the festival, awards are given to the best dance groups at the closing ceremony.
The dance of the devils or diablada, supposedly dreamed by some miners trapped in a sinkhole entrusted to the Virgen de la Candelaria in desperation, is the main one of the folkloric comparsas. The dancers make their offerings to the earth (Pachamama) playing panpipes, dressed in very colorful costumes and almost always masked. The most impressive masks, due to their terrifying effect, are those of deer with long twisted horns associated with the devil and, also, the Jacancho, god of minerals. At the cacharpari or farewell, the troupes that fill the streets finally go to the cemetery to worship the dead.
The image of the Virgen de la Candelaria is small, and represents a virgin with a very white complexion and rosy cheeks. This is housed in the Church of San Juan Bautista, located in front of Parque Pino in the city of Puno.
This festival has been celebrated for more than 30 years in an uninterrupted way, it summons many communities and dance groups from all over the southern part of Peru and foreign delegations, who perform in great artistic competitions and arrive with their own musical groups and staged in beautiful choreographies in parades through the streets and dance group competitions in the Puno stadium.
For tourists who wish to attend as spectators or participants of this party, it is recommended to make their reservation no less than 3 months in advance, given the large influx of visitors.
Festivity that takes place every year between January 24 and February 13 in the city of Puno, located in the southeast of Peru at 3820 meters above sea level; the central day of veneration is February 2.
- It is advisable to buy your ticket and separate accommodation in advance.
- You must be prepared for the height: Puno is located at more than 3 800 m s. n. m.
- Try the quinoa chupe and the famous trout, fried or in ceviche.
Touring Peru is discovering endless mysterious places, with hidden stories in corners that you may have never seen before stepping on this country. We recommend you to visit another impressive destinations in Cusco like the tour to rainbow mountain peru or the humantay lake tour from cusco, which only takes one day. But if you are gonna to stay more days in Perú, other archaeological places you can know will be the choquequirao trek peru, the salkantay trek to machu picchu, and the classic inca trail 4 days 3 nights.