Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria

Did you know there are almost 3,000 celebrations in Peru each year? That’s almost 10 a day! How do Peruvians keep up with all those celebrations? I knew when I first found out about all these celebrations that I had to go to at least one. I did a little research and found the perfect one for me, the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria near Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia.

People told me this festival starts on February 2nd and lasts eight days. Can you imagine celebrating for eight days? That sounded awesome to me! So I got together a few of my fellow travelers and we hopped a bus to Puno. They say Puno is the Folkloric Capital of Peru. That’s interesting, but I wanted to know how that played a role in the observation of this festival. I bumped all the way to Puno (literally, because the bus ride wasn’t so smooth).

Aerial view of Puno – Peru

When we got to Puno, it was a little gloomy, and I didn’t see any signs that an eight-day celebration was about to take place. We decided to go to the hotel and unpack. I ended up falling asleep watching TV, but my nap was interrupted by the sound of a crowd roaring. Apparently the festival came together while I was snoozing, so I rushed to get outside.

There was a parade with so many bright colors passing right by my hotel! Everyone was following the processional, which was led by a huge statue. I imagine it was on a car or something, but I couldn’t see because of the crowd. People were playing folk music and others were dancing in the streets. It was a big street party that slowly moved towards the center of town. The energy was so amazing, I couldn’t help but follow!

We finally arrived at the center of town, and the crowd moved to one side to what appeared to be a stage area. This was where a dance exposition was going to take place. Dance groups came out with their brightly colored, elaborate costumes and danced to the folk bands playing behind them. One group even came out dressed as dragons, masks and all. To me, the dances were like a cross between country line dances and folk dancing. There was lots of hopping, skipping, and turning. Each group member was really in sync, and it looked like they had been practicing for months to pull off such spectacular performances. I’m not even into country or folk music, but I really enjoyed the performances.

Virgen de la Candelaria religious procession near Puno – Peru

I looked to my left and saw that all my travel companions had made it to the dance performance. I was happy they made it, but I was even happier to know that we still had so many more days together to see what else the festival had in store for us.