A Glimpse Of Dancers And Their Craft At The Festival Of The Virgin Of Carmen

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The Festival of The Virgin de Carmen is an event that occurs every year in the villages of Pisac, and Paucartambo, located in the Cusco region of the Andes. In order to get to the bottom of what this festival is all about, I interviewed dancers from various groups about why they dance, and what the history is of their groups.

Photo credit: Scott Montgomery

The roots of this event run much deeper than Catholocism

The festival of the Virgin of Carmen is typically understood to be a Catholic event, celebrating the Virgin of Carmen, another name given to the Virgen Mary by the Carmelites of present-day Israel in the 13th century. Myself, like so many expats who have found their way to the Sacred Valley of Peru, have been called to be here in order to connect with what still remains of these ancient traditions. As one dancer for the K’achampas explained, for many people of the Andes, the festival of the Virgen of Carmen is anything but a Catholic event

Some of the types of dances you’ll encounter at the event

Los K’achampas

Los K’achampas are just one of 12 dance groups to perform for the festival. Each group has its own dress, dance, and tradition. Additionally, each group has its own band to accompany it. (Photo credit: Scott Montgomery)

 Where would dancers be without the musicians?

One of the dozens of bands to play at the festival. Harp, mandolin, fiddle, quena, drums. Photo credit: Scott Montgomery

The Majeños

“Los Majeños” pose before their dance. The man on the left is dressed as a typical Majeño. Notice his large nose, which is typical when satirizing those of colonial descent. (Photo credit: Scott Montgomery)
Another of the groups to participate in the festival are known as “Los Majeños”. To find more out about this group, I interviewed the leader of the group about the tradition behind their dance.
“The majeños were businessmen who sold liquor, but they come from a town that is called ‘Majes’ in Arequipa. They came to Cusco with their liquor, with their pisco (a type of alcohol) to do business; businessmen who came on horseback. So we have their dress with a leather jacket, sombrero, chaps and pants that are typical. With thick belts, shawls, and boots. And the mask [with a large nose like Pinocchio], that satirizes the majeños, no?”

Wayna Sacra

Photo credit: Scott Montgomery
“Wayna Sacra” is a dance that is unique to the community of Pisac. According to tradition, the Wayna Sacra are young female devils who, with their dance moves and dress, try to tempt the most faithful Catholics into sin. In our interview, the dancers explained why they participate in the dance.
We like to dance. We have a devotion to the Virgin, therefore we dance. Most of us have already been doing this for 6 years, 7 years.

As I mentioned, there are at least a dozen different dance groups. Here photos and descriptions of just a few of the others who participated in the festival.

“Los Sillkas de Pisic”. In this dance, with origins in the colonial period, the participants satirize the corrupt colonial judges and the unjust legal system against indigenous people. (Photo credit: Scott Montgomery)
“Qhapaq Negro” dancers, who represent enslaved Africans at the hands of European powers. (Photo: Scott Montgomery)
The statue of the Virgen of Carmen being carried through the street on the first day of the festival. (Photo: Scott Montgomery)

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Scott Montgomery is a multi-medium storyteller and holistic creative, a travel guide and transformational coach, whose core mission is to help others to live authentically with purpose and intention in order to make an impact in the world. After earning his masters degree in creative writing at Arizona State University in 2013, he made the move to Peru in order to write about indigenous communities of the jungles and the Andes, and to explore what this might have to do with his own life path. These years of traveling and living across the country have helped him to embrace a more purposeful lifestyle that's guided by the values of collaboration, creativity, and transformation. To find out more about what Scott's up to and how you can get involved, visit his personal website www.voyagewithscott.com