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Festivity of the Virgin of Candelaria

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The festivity of the Virgin of Candelaria is one of the biggest festivities in Peru and America. This celebration is based in the city of Puno where year after year the faithful and devotees come together to worship the virgin, in a wonderful display of hundreds and hundreds of dancers and musicians, the feast of the Candelaria is certainly a celebration not to be missed.

History of the Virgin of Candelaria

Festividad De La Virgen De La Candelaria Puno
Festivity Of The Virgin Of Candelaria Puno

The image of the Virgin was brought from Spain on February 2, 1583, the origin of this image is on the island of Tenerife in Spain, where legend has it that the Virgin Mary would have appeared to two young shepherds, who then carved a sculpture of the Virgin with the iconography that she presented in that vision. Years later in the town of Huancané, a great devotion to the image of this virgin began, and it was transferred to the cathedral of San Juan in Puno.

Nowadays, it is known that the original name that the virgin would have had in Tenerife Island was ''The Mother of the Sustainer of Heaven and Earth'', when she arrived to Puno she would have been named as the Virgin of Candelaria, presumably because of the candle that she holds in her right hand.

What is celebrated on the feast of the Virgen de la Candelaria?

We know that there are multiple representations of the Virgin Mary, which allude to different stages in her life.

According to the iconography that surrounds the Virgin of Candelaria we can appreciate among its main attributes

  • A lighted candle
  • A basket of turtledoves for sacrifice that signifies the purification of motherhood according to Jewish tradition, after the 40 days of childbirth.
  • She carries the child Jesus on her left arm, to present him in the temple.

It should be noted that the festival is held every February 2, 40 days after the birth of the child, coinciding with the iconography of the Virgin.

What is the origin of the feast of the Virgin of Candelaria?

The origin of the devotion is given when the year 1781 the town of Puno was surrounded by the rebel warriors of Tupac Catari, in the middle of the rebellion was taken in procession to the Virgin, which caused the withdrawal of the warriors to consider it a divine force that brought support forces for the Spanish army. Since then the Virgin Candelaria was declared patron and protector of Puno.

What activities make the Virgin of Candelaria special?

The festival of La Candelaria is particularly special because of all the cultural and artistic display that the people of Puno perform every year.

The same Jose Maria Arguedas leaves in his writings the year 1967 the following phrase ''In no other region of Peru and without a doubt of America can be found so varied and so many dances as in Puno…'' Without a doubt Puno is for this and other reasons recognized as ''The Folkloric Capital of Peru'', being recognized the festivity of the Candelaria as Intangible Cultural Patrimony of the Humanity by UNESCO and Cultural Patrimony of the Nation.

The dances that are presented in the festivity are of Pre-Hispanic, Colonial and Republican origin and dances that during the process of evangelization were changing to adapt to the new religious doctrine during the XVI and XVII centuries.

Currently, the syncretism created years ago in the religious artistic manifestations we can observe an endless number of dances that worship the Virgin, as formerly worshiped the Inca deities, such as the sun, the mallkis or Pachamama.

Among the most representative dances that can be seen in this festival we have:

Pre-Hispanic Autochthonous Dances

Puno 1
  • Sikuris: The origin of this dance is in Inca times according to the writings of chroniclers such as Bernabe Cobo, Garcilazo de la Vega, Huaman Poma de Ayala, The dance consists of music performed by panpipes and rustic drums made with deer, alpaca or llama skin.
  • Ayarachis: These are groups that perform both dances and chants while playing panpipes and drums, accompanied by women who carry food as offerings, the origin of this dance would be funerary style.
  • Choqqelas: A ritual dance that was practiced before chako (hunting) activities of deer and vicuñas, as well as in rituals to ask for the increase of livestock. This dance is a clear example of syncretism, as it is denoted in the songs of the women who narrate the hunting activities, also asked the apus for protection and flourishing of livestock, but currently these same requests are made to the Virgin Candelaria and other Catholic saints.

Dances of lights (colonial and republic)

  • Diablada: Traditional dance that would have been used to indoctrinate the natives about the sacramental acts as well as the 7 deadly sins and the fight between angels and demons, among the most prominent characters is the Archangel Michael in his fight against Lucifer, the dancers of this dance has a wonderful presentation of multicolored costumes and well dressed.
  • Morenada: The morenada is a dance that represents the time of slavery in which African slaves were exploited in the Mercury mines of Alto Peru (now Bolivia). This dance is also accompanied by characteristic rattles that imitate the sound of the chains that the former slaves wore, like the diablada, these groups make presentation of the most finely elaborated costumes.
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