“Loving Life”: Peruvian Carnivals, Festivals and Celebrations

February, renowned as the month of love, inspires us to explore Peru’s tradition of festivity and carnival as Peruvians celebrate loving life.

Close to our Aqua Amazon and Aria Amazon’s home in Iquitos, Peruvians celebrate the Humisha Carnival from Amazonia Day on 12 February, to 17 February. Although not a religious celebration there are strong ties to Catholic traditions, and  Humisha Carnivals are celebrated all around the world.

Humishas are elaborately decorated Palm trees adorned with colorful dream catchers, gifts, fruit, mirrors and even live animals. Legend has it that during the Humisha Carnival, demons come out and roam the streets, watching and celebrating the joy of the people who dance to the beat of drums and flutes. Couples dance around, forming groups or gangs, each one with a large number of dancers.

La Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria – the Most Popular Carnival in Peru

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Of all the celebrations and carnivals in Peru, La Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria, stands out as one of the three most significant annual festivals in South America along with Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and the Carnaval de Oruro. With a vibrant ambiance, beautifully costumed dancers, and dramatic colors, this festival takes place on the eve of the 2nd of February and lasts until the following Sunday. It is celebrated in the port city of Puno, which serves as a gateway to Peru’s Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. While the festival is mostly a Catholic celebration, it has roots in the pre-Columbian mining culture of Puno and the many pre-Columbian rituals that were practiced during the planting and harvest seasons.

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The festival starts with a dawn pilgrimage, to a hill where villagers pay homage to the Virgin of Candelaria. A folkloric dance competition is always held on the opening day of the festivities, with more than 70 dance troupes (with up to 100 members in each) performing representing varying local villages and traditions from the Quechua, Aymara and Highlands Andean cultures. The main goal of the dance performances is to please the Virgin of Candelaria. Peruvians’ love of dancing continues, with the “Diablada” being performed over the next seven days of festivities. This dance, a centrepiece of the festival, supposedly originated when a group of Peruvians were trapped in a mine but then rescued due to the mercy of the Virgin of Candelaria. This is recreated today by participants dressing up in demon masks and as the God of the mines “Jacancho.”

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The La Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria celebration ends in a massive parade involving more than 150 sets, 50,000 dancers and some 15,000 musicians donning elaborate masks and intricately decorated costumes. During the festival, the streets are adorned with colorful flags and streamers, popular artists participate in the design of festival decor, and homage is paid to the patron saint of the city, la Virgen de la Candelaria, also known as “La Morenita”. This celebration of Peruvian’s love of life continues after the last dance steps are taken in La Fiesta as Peru gets into gear for the next party, the Celebration of the Carnivals!

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Renowned as the ‘Folk Capital of the Americas’,  Peru’s love of life continues on board our Aqua Expedition cruises as we toast to life, love and health with a pisco punch as the sun sets over the Amazon.

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