For travelers in search of a unique experience to add to their Peru adventure, look no further than the Paucartambo Festival that takes place annually in the town of Paucartambo outside of Cusco.
When I first thought about Peru, I imagined a land of untold wonder and mystery. To some extent, that still holds true as new archeological sites are continuously being discovered; however, people all around the world are starting to take notice of the country as a whole and all it has to offer.
As travel opportunities come to light, tourists find ways to extract a rather unique experience from their adventure. Among these opportunities includes the Paucartambo Festival.
Unlike the many other festivals that take place throughout the year, the Paucartambo Festival is one that needs to be witnessed in person to be believed.
What is the Paucartambo Festival?
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.
As a way to pay respect to the Virgen del Carmen (Our Lady of Mount Carmel), also called Mamacha del Carmen, it is believed by most that the 17th century sprouted the origins of the festivities.
As inhabitants of the Andean Plateau were herding their llamas, they witnessed the face of the virgin on a clay pot. From this likeness, they sculpted the apparition and embodied it in a temple.
The Schedule of Events
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.
Explore the culture of Peru and more by attending the Paucartambo Festival; you won’t be alone, as crowds of people will warmly welcome you to celebrate and take in the sights and sounds right along with them. This is an event you will not experience anywhere else in the world.
Cover Art: Wikimedia Commons