This festival is held every year in the colonial town of Paucartambo, at an altitude of 3,017 m and 110 km from the city of Cusco (approximately 4 hours).
In the town of Paucartambo, thousands of believers venerate the Virgin of Carmen, also called "Mamacha Carmen", patron of the mestizos. The gathering that starts this festival is done in the main square where bands of musicians play their instruments while richly dressed choirs sing in Quechua, giving rise to ingenious choreographies that represent passages of Peruvian history.
During the day walking troupes dancing in the narrow cobbled streets of the town, preceded by bands and orchestras go down the streets. Everything is transformed into colorful costumes and musical chords. Pilgrims intermingle with the groups of dancers, blending in with each other in a magical celebration.
During five days, groups of dancers perform; on the main day the Virgin is led in procession to bless those present in Paucartambo and scare off demons. The dancers "Sajras" perform gymnastic and risky tests on the roofs of houses, showing their attires of Inca and colonial style. At the end of the procession a war is waged against the demons, from which the faithful emerge triumphant.
Finally everything concludes with "kacharpari", or farewell party.
Between July 15 and July 18 of every year, thousands of devotees and visitors gather to celebrate the Festival of the Virgen del Carmen.
How to get there:
The cars that go to Paucartambo can be found on Avenida Diagonal Angamos and cost approximately S./ 15.00. You can also find taxis in the area and you can negotiate the cost of the ride.
There are several stories about the origin of this holiday, one that:
When the then ruler of Peru Pedro Fernandez de Castro Andrade, Count of Lemos, traveled to Upper Peru, came from Puno to Cuzco, he was told that in Pucara, a miracle happened because a rock appeared in the likeness of the Virgin and when he personally found it, the Viceroy was admired for its perfection. When he returned to the viceregal capital, he sent a painter to Pucara for the miracle to be transported on canvas, work that was unbeatable.
Thus the Viceroy Count of Lemos himself ordered to carve identical effigies and the same size as the destinations were Pucara and Puni, to be worshiped in the temple.
Although several years had passed, the image was not picked up by people from Puno, staying in Pucara. When Doña Maria Campos, a woman with good economic status who used to travel from Puno to Paucartambo, heard the news, she made her efforts to bring the image to Paucartambo from which date the feast is celebrated with the solemnity possible.
La Virgen Del Carmen was declared patron of folk dances in 1972 and it has been brought to the city of Cuzco to be honored by Pope John Paul II in February 1985.
Tres Cruces (Three Crosses)
Forty-five kilometers from the town of Paucartambo lies Tres Cruces, also called Balcon del Oriente (Balcony of the Orient), a spectacular natural viewpoint oriented towards the Amazon, from where one of the most impressive sunrises in the world can be seen, as it has a view towards the low jungle and also the Kosñipata Valley;this point highlights the variety of colors and shapes caused by the sunrise.
In this place the so-called “white ray” occurs, a phenomenon that occurs when the sun rises on the horizon and the clouds begin to move while they mix with moisture; the light is distorted as if through a prism and shows an effect of three suns, one of which jumps from one side to the other. This natural phenomenon is observed between months June and July.
The departures to the viewpoint are at 1:00 in the morning and the travel time is approximately 2 hours. The show starts at 4:30a.m. until 6:00a.m.
The Dances that Accompany the Virgen del Carmen
The “Danzaq” or “Tusuq” is a dance where those to whom seductive abilities are attributed towards quinceañeras girls, conquering the married and consoling the widows make up one of the best-dressed groups, due to their color and elegance when dancing. They cover their heads with chucos, they wear short ponchos interwoven with ornaments, and blue pants divided in fringes, in the colors of the rainbow. It is undoubtedly one of the most representative dances of the province of Paucartambo.
This dance represents the women of the Kosñipata jungle, but it has a clear mestizo influence, because of the clothing worn and the music that accompanies it. Its costumes consist of a crown of Amazons, complete with hair, a breastplate that represents the Virgin, two “ch´uspas” that serve to carry her wayruros, a suitable dress in which she carries a chonta (a sort of palm tree) and the sinehon.
This dance in Spanish means “Rich Black Man” recalls the slave age of the black population, so they carry chains as a sign of submission. At present, the Negros of Paucartambo are considered the slaves of the Virgen del Carmen, to whom they offer their beautiful and amazing dance and sentimental songs.
It is a representative dance of the inhabitants of the Qollasuyu, its origin dates from colonial times, when the Qollavino merchants arrived in Paucartambo. The dance draws its essence from the faith in “Mamacha del Carmen” and this is to whom, during the party, they sing, they dance and cheer in the guerilla. The dancers wear beautiful and ornate monteras, the waq´ollo and lliclla made of vicuña; the q´epi contains a dissected vicuna.
This dance represents the warriors of the jungle of Qosñipata(district of the province of Paucartambo). In their clothing they use multicolored feathers called “ch´ucu”, long hair, mesh mask, and carry a spear of “chonta”. The Band is typical (two whistles, drum and bass drum).