Celebrated every February by Aymara, Quechua, and mestizo ethnic groups of the Peruvian altiplano, the Fiesta de la Candelaria in Puno is a festival over the first two weeks in February in honor of the Virgin Maria of the Candelaria. It is Peru‘s most important religious celebration and one of the largest in South America (just behind the Rio’s Carnaval), which means lots of beer and lots of Catholicism.
With neighborhood and village dance groups (conjuntos) winding through the streets of Puno for hours on end fueled by local pride and alcohol, keeping your camera handy is advisable. The first weekend´s competition is reserved for the traditional dances of the native communities (danzas autóctonas), while the following week is reserved for the more stylized dance groups (trajes de luces, literally suits of light).

Calejo Ladies

1. In this traditional dance, called the cajelo, the ladies swing back and forth displaying their dresses and the men alternate in whipping the ground, meant to symbolize preparing the land for planting. It shows the love/hate relationship with the land (pachamama, also meaning "time" and "the universe), as it provides nourishment as well as stress if the crops are ailing. Of course, the next person I asked said it was a satirical re-enactment of the whip-wielding Spanish landlords after their conquest of the area.


Aymara Group

2. In this Aymara group recently exiting the stadium competition to tour through the streets, it´s pretty obvious how much work goes into the costumes. Many individuals will spend a month´s salary or more on a get-up, and their skills on the zampoña (Pan pipes) and bombos (drums) are there to match it.


Quechua group

3. This Quechua group had no problem getting the crowd riled up while playing the pinquillos.



4. The diabladas are among the more notorious costumes of the dances and are quite frightening at first.


sashaying diabladas

5. It's shocking to see leagues of them sashaying down the street.


sashaying diabladas

6.It´s no surprise these guys are commanding the diabladas through the parade.


sashaying diabladas

7. The ever-popular gorilla costumes are in homage to the bounty of the jungle.


sashaying diabladas

8.The Virgen de la Candelaria makes an appearance in Puno´s main plaza (Plaza de Armas).


sashaying diabladas

9. Making their presence known, the morenadas stop frequently to pop off their helmets for a breather and a beer.


sashaying diabladas

10. These ladies in their trajes de luz look skyward hoping for the crowd to splash them with water under the afternoon sun.

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