Carnaval season is here and many cities throughout Peru are celebrating the holiday in their own unique and vibrant way. Here are five you should know about.
The Christian, pre-Lent celebration known as Carnaval takes on local colors and flavors around the world. You’ve heard of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the over-the-top Carnaval of Rio de Janeiro. Though not as colossal in size, the carnavales of Peru are full of dance troupes (comparsas) dressed in elaborate costumes, festive music, colorful streets and delectable food. These five Carnaval celebrations stand out.
1. Carnaval de Cajamarca
Known as Peru’s capital of carnavales, Cajamarca knows how to throw a party. And they should know, since the townspeople have been doing so since 1930. What’s noteworthy here is the meticulous organization that goes into mounting all the danzas that take place throughout the city. Each neighborhood performs their own danza with unique costumes and music. Indeed, this Carnaval is known for the original coplas, or poems, that are performed during the festivities.
In addition to the danzas, at the Carnaval you’ll see spectators and performers join in water balloon, water guns and water bucket fights. Expect painting and colorful powder battles too. Visitors can also learn more about the celebrations at the Carnaval museum in the city.
The festivities will take place February 22-26, 2020.
2. Carnaval Ayacuchano
Like all Carnaval celebrations in Peru, the Ayacucho carnaval shows the cultural mixture between European and Christian influences, and the indigenous traditions of Peru. These syncretic manifestations are a sight to behold. The Ayacuchano Carnaval starts off with the the entrance of the Ño Carnavalon, a ceremony with Andean roots and that signals the start of the celebrations.
A doll dressed as an old man is unearthed from the ground by the crowd and to the tune of celebratory music. At the end of the festivities he is buried once again with an offering of food and drinks so Mother Earth can provide double that in the next year.
The celebration runs from February 22 to 26. When you visit, make sure to try the Puchero Ayacuchano, a delicious stew filled with meat, Andean potatoes, corn and vegetables.
3. Carnaval Loncco, Arequipa
The Carnaval Loncco Caymeño is celebrated in the department of Cayma in Arequipa. The festival here is known for its mojigangos or mojigangas, a masquerade dance with Spanish and Catholic origins. In other countries, participants dress up in characters and wear oversized papier-mâché heads. In this version, participants of the mojigango dance dress in colorful harlequin costumes. You’ll see the characters dance and sing, interacting with the crowd and playfully spraying foam from a can at lucky viewers.
This year’s Carnaval will be on February 23.
4. Carnaval Jaujino
The Carnaval Jaujino in Jauja, Junin is known for the elegance of its participants. Especially the ladies. In fact, one of the celebratory practices of the festival is having the chutos, or jokers of the Carnaval, punish participants if they are not dressed elegantly. This tradition stems from the 18th century when couples dressed in their elegant wears would walk outside their house and come together in song and dance to celebrate the Catholic holiday.
One of the first ceremonies that kicks off the event is El cortamonte, where participants take turns to cut down trees in order to take elsewhere where they will be replanted amidst song and dance.
This Carnaval takes place February 22 to 26, 2020.
5. Carnaval Riojano
The Carnaval Riojano in San Martín is one of the most popular festivals in the Amazon region. Probably because of the colorful and joyful parade where the different neighborhoods participate with extravagant floats. Unlike in other carnavales, here you will find the women participating in flashy, neon or metal colored costumes adorned in feathers. The crowd also crowns the Miss Carnaval Riojano during the celebrations.
The Carnaval takes place from February 20 to 26 this year.