The Virgen del Carmen, affectionately called Mamacha Carmen by her faithful devotees, is a wooden sculpture representing the Virgin Mary carrying the baby Jesus in her left arm. The celebrations in honor of this virgin is already a tradition inherent to the whole population of Cusco, being declared Cultural Patrimony of the Nation.
The feast of the Virgen del Carmen of Paucartambo is a transcendental celebration of this town, which is located just 2 hours from the city of Cusco, without a doubt a wonderful experience full of music, dances, colors, delicious food and the faith of the people of Paucartambo who welcome all visitors with great joy.
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The feast of the Virgen del Carmen, stands out among other religious festivities, especially for the large number of visitors who come from other cities in Peru and the world.
The history of the origin of the Virgin of Carmen is wrapped in legends, the most popular story tells that during the decade of 1740, the image of the virgin was the patron saint of the Chapel of the Assumption, located a few kilometers from Paucartambo. From this place it was taken to the city of Cusco, along with other saints and virgins, to celebrate Corpus Christi; however, during the journey the ''chunchos'' (Amazonian warriors) attacked some landowners and set fire to the chapel of the Assumption, wounding the body of the virgin with their arrows.
Then they threw the image of the virgin to the Amaru Mayu river, it is necessary to indicate that the body of the image is carved in wood, reason why this floated until arriving to firm land, the place now is called Madre de Dios, where it was found by residents of the area, who when recognizing it decided to take it back to Paucartambo, the legend says that the image still showed the marks of the arrows of the Chunchos.
This is how nowadays the Amazonian troupes like the Qhapaq Chunchos or Chunchachas always dance near the image, as a sign of repentance and asking for forgiveness to the Virgin, being now considered warriors who come to Paucartambo to protect the Saint during the celebration.
In addition to the chunchos groups, the Virgin of Carmen is honored with multiple dance groups whose members do not necessarily live in Paucartambo, but often migrate to other cities and even countries, but who return to Paucartambo exclusively to worship the Virgin through dances and songs.
There are so many dance troupes that attend the celebration of the Virgen del Carmen, which is currently called the Patroness of Folkloric Dances in 1972 and was personally crowned by Pope John Paul II in 1985.
Among the main dances that are presented in the feast of the Virgen del Carmen is:
Their costume is one of the most striking, with colorful stripes, tousled wigs, zoomorphic masks with large antlers, and the most exquisite handmade embroidery. The cuadrilla is composed of men with a caporal who directs the choreography, multiple infernal soldiers and a single woman, the Chinese Saqra. During the festival it is common to see them on the roofs of the houses or hanging from the balconies.
The dance is danced, it is integrated only by men, a caporal leader of the group, always accompanied by a mestizo Cusquenian lady, Majeños who dance in rows, and 2 Maqtas who are comic elements that brighten up the dance.
The traditional costume of the Chilean Auqa is a red shirt with whips around the torso, riding breeches, military boots, white complexion masks with blue eyes and blond mustaches.
In the dance you can see the caporal carrying a long paddle for the oven, while the other dancers carry sacks of flour, kneading pans, aprons and white hats, the women carry baskets of bread.
The costume is made up of a white skirt and shirt, gloves and a grille mask, as well as a chonta wood arrow, however, what stands out the most are the colorful crowns adorned with macaw feathers and a long tail of smaller feathers of parrots, hummingbirds, and other Amazonian birds.
At 10 p.m. the bands of musicians serenade the Virgen del Carmen until dawn.
Finally, at 3 pm the Virgin of Carmen leaves in procession, by this time the Saqras flee to the roofs and balconies, writhing before the passage of the image, as they can not be in the presence of the Virgin.
After receiving the blessing in the main square of Paucartambo the guerrilla between ''qollas'' (dances of the highlands Qollasuyo) and ''antis'' (dances of jungle, antisuyo) in these guerrillas also participate the Saqras who in a theatricalization take the deceased of the battle in their chariots of fire.
Once the battle is over, all are united in a general qhaswa.