Peru is known for its cultural, artistic and religious richness; this time we moved to the city of Puno which is located over 3200 meters above sea level to live one of the best festivities of Peru, the feast of the Virgen de la Candelaria, the patron saint of the folkloric capital of Peru and America, which is celebrated every year in the first weeks of February.
This great festival of the Candelaria was no exception to receive such recognition awarded by UNESCO as "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" in 2014, an award deserved for its transnational cultural diversity because it unites two countries between Bolivia and Peru and in 2003 was declared as Cultural Heritage of the Nation.
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The Virgin of Candelaria or Our Lady of Candelaria is the Marian invocation of the Catholic religion that originates in Tenerife, Spain. Its etymology of candelero or candle refers to light, which for the religion means the holy light that guides to the good path, redemption and enlivens faith in God.
This tradition dates back to the year 496, when Pope Gelasius I introduced it as one of the oldest festivals among the festivals of the virgins; the festival was held 40 days after Christmas to remember the presence of Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem.
There was also a Jewish tradition, in which mothers waited forty days after childbirth to purify themselves, until then they could not show the baby to the religious authorities, a ritual that was done with the blessing of wax candles.
The festivity of the Virgin of the Candelaria in Puno arrives with the Spaniards during the viceroyalty and it was expanded when the devotion in the mining quarries of the south of the country; the Virgin of the Candelaria that carries a lighted candle in the hand and in the other one the child is a tradition inserted by the Spaniards from Spain, Tenerife.
Con el pasar del tiempo, primero los mineros la festejaban, porque ellos comentaban que la Virgen iluminaba su camino en los oscuros socavones de las minas, y poco a poco se fue incorporando a la población y le rezaban a la Virgen de la Candelaria; esto sucedió porque en su gran mayoría los pobladores laboran en las minas durante el Virreinato.
This is how at present, the Virgin of the Candelaria becomes the Patron Saint of Puno, and it is celebrated the first weeks of February, with great musical groups, dancers and many parishioners who come to the place from different parts of the country and even from abroad.
The first story we are told is that the monks did not know how to merge the Catholic religion in the region, since at that time the people worshiped the sun, the moon, so they put around the Virgin a crown of radiance and the lower part a moon; just to create a closeness with the Catholic religion and the beliefs that the Quechua and Aymara had to worship the nature of the sun and the moon.
The fusion brought positive results, since the Spaniards venerated the Virgin and the natives venerated the Inti and her Quilla which are names in Quechua of the Sun and the Moon; that with time was accepted as such and with the passing of time they forgot that relationship that they had and now the new generations venerate only the Virgin of the Candelaria.
The second story they tell us is when the Peruvian army who continued with the fight of Tupac Amaru II faced against the Spaniards, but because of the few people who were fighting, they were afraid of the Spaniards; that's when the villagers decided to take the Virgin in procession imploring her protection all night long, and miraculously the enemies left the place.
And the other version tells that the Virgin appeared to a native of the area who was taking care of his master's stable, which was located on the banks of the stream at the foot of the Huajsapata hill. It is said that she had the appearance of a very elegant lady with a serene face and a child on her arm.
The Virgin asked permission to wash her son's clothes in the stream in exchange she would take care of the place until he returned, when the Indian returned with his master, they could not believe what they found in the place, there was the bust of the Virgin, with white dress, clothes still wet and were convinced that this event was a miracle.
The Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Candelaria was built in 1669, in the beginning it had the name of San Juan as a small parish of the small town, and when it was created as Villa de San Carlos de Puno the place already existed and changed the structure.
At the beginning it was a chapel for the aborigines and with the time it suffered some alterations; its construction was made of adobe that was restored in 1876, during this construction it was made with some details of the Republican epoch with the French ogival frontispiece.
It also has three Gothic style altars, carved in wood with sculptural work and some religious paintings, in its main altar is the Virgin of Candelaria. In the interior of the back you will find another main altar in which is the Camarín de la Virgen and has more than 100 embroidered mantles of different designs, materials and colors that were given by his parishioners devotees to celebrate his day.
Every year on February 2, the feast of the Virgin of Candelaria, the "patron saint of Puno", is celebrated. On this day, various autochthonous dances are performed and one day after the octave, the adoration of the Virgin takes place in the front part of the atrium with various dances in costumes of lights.
The festivity of the Virgen de la Candelaria is the biggest celebration in Peru, gathering a large number of dancers, musicians and spectators who come to the place. In the Enrique Torres Belón stadium in Puno, a contest of autochthonous dances takes place.
Among the dances that compete are:
Diablada (emblematic dance), Sicuris, Chacareros, Llameritos, Yapuchiris, Tinti wacas, Casarasiris, Pinkillada, Tucumanos and others.
The costumes of the dances are made with different materials that show the ancestral cultural richness of the native people of Peru, also, it is accompanied with music and dances.
Regarding the costumes of lights contest, dances such as the morenada, the caporales, the tuntuna among other groups and dance associations are presented.
The festivity of the Virgen del Carmen, Peru's largest festival is celebrated the first two weeks of February and the central day is February 2, in which more than 40 000 dancers and 9000 musicians from all over the region and a number of parishioners from all over the place.