Around four hours’ drive from Cusco, the festival is held in the small town of Paucartambo itself. Every year from July 15th to 19th, and sometimes even longer, you can find this town running amok with fervent energy.
The festival begins with an extravagant display of fireworks, followed by the tolling of the bells. Acrobatic acts signal the beginning of the nighttime festivities. At 11:00 p.m., a band begins to play a serenade to the Virgin until dawn.
The main day of the festivities takes place on this day. Mass begins around 5:00 a.m., followed by another one at 10:00 a.m. Songs from cultures that used to inhabit the region are played during these masses as well. Towards the end of the day, singing and dancing take over the streets in brilliant fashion. Beautiful costumes, masks, and unique dances are commonplace.
The procession of the Virgin takes place at 3:00 p.m. More masks and costumes blanket the city streets and balconies, causing controlled and beautiful chaos. Bright colors and energetic citizens make it a point to make a lively impression. July 17th is considered a day of blessings, and some of the festivities are carried over to cemeteries to pay respects to dearly departed dancers.
The virgin is taken to the temple, where a traditional ceremony called “ocarikuy” is performed. The celebration ends at around 4 p.m. after a priest blesses the community.
At 11:00 a.m., a special ceremony called the “change of clothes” is held after placing the sacred image of the Virgin on the altar. Locals say their goodbyes to Our Lady of Mount Carmel through prayer and stay with her until the last possible moment.
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