Monday, February 23, 2009

Festival de la Virgen

Festival de la Virgen del Candelaria

I was in Puno, Peru for three weeks. It was the festival de la Virgen de Candelaria.

I performed with the Sikuris Andean windpipe group, and we danced the whole time. The main events were held on the weekends where we would do stadium performances or we would dance through the streets for hours. The main days we danced from 9 am to 6 pm, took a break and ate and then watched the some 50 odd groups that were all marching through the streets and party and have a good time. Some of the costumes were amazing, beyond things I had imagined would be in a festival. Some of the hand made metal masks I saw were at least 4 feet tall, painted, with crazy devil characteristics (taken from the Pagaen ancestry), colorful. They would wear them for hours. Groups costumes included everything from traditional more conservative campesino clothing, to more colonial influenced brightly colored costumes, to devil like monster gods, to hand made 40 kilo dragon costumes....and everything inbetween. It was a visual and audio spectacular.....there is just this contagious energy that flows through everybody, everybody is HAPPY!!!!! The days and nights were filled with music, dancing, food, parades, practices, and get togethers... definitely one of my trip tops.

During the days of rest, as I like to call them.....the week between Candelaria and Carnaval, I went a couple of new places. One of them was the town of Chiqui on Lake Titicaca. The drive by Lake Titicaca was beautiful, filled with little pueblos, drying reeds, boats fishing trout, the rugged altiplano landscape and clear endless blue skies. We made it to the little town and checked out the old lookouts, falling churches, a trout farm run by the Puno University. We also made our way to an ancient fertility ruin, a smallish square filled with rock penises. Some of the facing upward to give fertility to the sun god, some facing into the group to give fertility to Pachamama, Mother Earth. We took fun pictures and said we were just recently married, so I could get the non-gringa price. (Then at the end told the lady my husband was made at me because I sat on one of the penises, which they believe quadruples your fertility chances)

Sidenote: Gringo/Gringa is not a derrogatory term here, it doesn´t mean somebody bad, it simply means somebody different, who looks different, talks different, has different practices. So i´ve learned not be offended.

I got to know Puno Peru really well due to my couchsurfer Lizandro and everything he introduced me to. I spent my last couple of days driving around on the 1960 Honda moto with Freddy, going to the market which occupies some 20 block straights and then has a 4 x 6 block everywhere which I loved, eating ice cream, hanging at the cafe with our friends, and practicing the windpipe. I´ve decided to go back next February to dance again with this group, a new tradition.

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