A Peruvian Expat Guides You Through the Experience of Peruvian Festivals

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Peru, a Never Ending Celebration

Peruvians really do know how to enjoy life.

While living in Peru, I rarely paid attention to how many celebrations I had been invited to. There were lots. Only in my neighborhood, I received invitations to the usual birthday parties but also quinceañeros, polladas (chicken parties), parrilladas (Barbecues), yunzas, soccer tournaments, etc. And when it comes to festivals, I don’t know where to begin.

I didn’t grasp how entertaining life is in Peru until I emigrated to the US. In the United States, most people focus on work and their careers. Nothing wrong with that. Except, one can’t fail to recognize the contrast in the lifestyles of both countries. Every time I visit Lima, I realize things have not changed. On any given day, there seems to be a party on every block. Peru has a never-ending celebration.

I randomly picked some of my favorites:

Carnival of Huanchaco – The Greatest Surfing Exhibition

caallito-totora-surfImage Source: El Escudero

Huanchaco is a famous beach town in Peru. Located in Trujillo, Huanchaco has a long history. The Moche natives navigated through Huanchaco seas with the rafts ‘Caballitos de Totora‘. Scholars hold that ceviche was first invented by the Moche, in Huanchaco beach.

Huanchaco has a great festival attended by over forty thousand tourists per year. This event offers a beauty queen contest, a parade (a.k.a Gran Corso), the Cilulo dance, the Huanchaco Luau and a Surfing exhibition.

The Surfing exhibition on Caballitos de Totora is spectacular. Mind you, Huanchaco was selected as a Surfing Wave reserve by the (ISA) International Surfing Association. The ISA wrote: “Huanchaco is one of the places where surfing was first practiced by fishermen 2,500 years ago”..and Caballitos de Totora “is one of humanity’s earliest known surf crafts..”

For all the talk about Huanchaco, Peruvian surfers are fabulous. In 2004, Peruvian Sofia Mulanovich was the first ever South American who obtained the World title. Later, she won three world tour events and was inducted into the World’s Surfer’s Hall of fame. 

Date: From February 2 to March 10

Average Attendance: Approx 40,000 people

Tourist Advice: Enjoy one of Peru’s best beaches for surfing

The Gran Corso is a parade formed by colorful caravans:

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Corso del Carnaval Huanchaquero 2015

Running of the Bulls in Huancavelica – Embracing Primordial Instincts

944160_464915823583787_1883941774_nImage Source: Patria Andina

No need to visit Pamplona just for Bull running. Especially when you have one in Peru.

Our bull running events are not held in Acho (Lima) but in the Andes. In Huancavelica carnival, locals confront a bull on the plains. Although people get injured, the tradition has continued unabatedly. Nowadays, animal rights organization oppose these practices. Nonetheless, Bull running is a respected tradition. 

Scholars suggest that people participate in bull running as a form of dissidence. It is their way of showing their unwillingness to lose “their traditional culture in the modern world.” When people confront the bull, they embrace their primordial instincts, showing their rejection of urban life. And the less fear they have, the more they prove their independence against state authority.

Date: Festivities begin on January 1st

Average Attendance: Over 1,000 people

Tourist Advice: Animal Rights supporters not advised to attend.

It’s astonishing to see how fearless Huancaveliqueños are:

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corrida de toros chaccllatacana 2016

The Quyllurit’i Festival – The Pilgrimage to Sinakara Valley

p18_RTR2O0UA (1)Image Source: Reuters

Yes, Peru has their own version of Burning Man, although it is unaffiliated with pre-dates the Nevada Burning man. Every year, over 10,000 pilgrims gather in Sinakara Valley, Cuzco. Villagers from Cusco, Calca, Paucartambo, Urubamba and Quispicanchis camp in the valley, preparing for a spiritual escapade. This is the Quyllurit’i, translated as “The Star Snow Festival.” For three days, Aymaras stage rituals and dances. In order to get abundant crops, they honor the stars and Our Lady of Fatima: a genuine display of Andean syncretism.

Wearing special garments, people join in the spirit of brotherhood. They parade an image of Jesus and take it to a mountain shrine. This Aymara ritual elevates their consciousness while meditating about the transcendence of the soul. Yes, just like at Burning man. A growing number of American and European tourists attend the Quyllurit’i festival. Some publicize it as the “Peruvian Burning man festival.”

Date: May 22

Average Attendance: Around 20,000 with tourists included.

Tourist Advice: Suited for open-minded people seeking to learn indigenous rituals.

Be prepared to see some interesting dancing and singing rituals:

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Qoyllurit'i 2015 - Qhapaq Qollas de Andahuaylillas

Side Note: Healing the Soul with the Peruvian Ayahuasca

downloadImage Source: The Body and Beyond-Mark

Although our ‘Peruvian Burning man’ has no psychedelics involved, Peru has plenty of ayahuasca. As the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Ayahuasca activates parts of the brain that make it possible to recall deep rooted memories, increasing self-awareness…providing spiritual and personal guidance.”

Thousands of Americans affected by PTSD have come to Peru, seeking relief with the “vine of the soul”. In Iquitos, several lodges offer ayahuasca as part of a spiritual retreat. It is turning into a huge business. Nevertheless, critics said the Peruvian government needs to regulate its consumption. Mixing Ayahuasca with other drugs could be lethal.

Date: All year long.

Average Attendance: 15 to 20 people.

Tourist Advice: Prepared to know the real truth without any fear.

Here is a video of American citizens explaining their experiences with Ayahuasca:

The Black Summer Festival – Celebrating Chinchano Heritage

547665_289797877814336_708584136_nImage Source: Info Hotel Peru

To become acquainted with our African roots, visit Chincha. ‘The Black summer’ is our best Afroperuvian festival. In February, Chinchanos celebrate their contributions in the realms of dance, art, and gastronomy. But nothing can match the Zapateo contest. On this day, the best step dancers display their skills.

One of the greatest Peruvian intellectuals, Nicomedes Santa Cruz, was also an Afro-descendant. Accordingly, academics hold various talks about history, urban culture and social issues.

Afro-Peruvians made our culture stronger. For example, the Andean Anticuchos, almost forgotten in colonial times, was preserved by Afro-Peruvians. Peruvian dishes such as Aji de gallina, and the desserts Turrón de Doña Pepa and Picarones, also have African influence. 

Date: From February 25 to March 6

Average Attendance: 50,000 people.

Tourist Advice: Prepare to learn some very erotic steps dancing Festejo.

Chinchanos present a magnificent Pasacalle (parade) at night:

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Gran Pasacalle - Verano Negro 2016

The Cajon Peruano Festival – an Homage to Cajon Peruano

000291149WImage Source: Andina

Although Cajones are played worldwide, they are an authentic Peruvian invention.

In colonial Lima, Africans were forbidden to play drums by Spanish authorities. Considered impure, drums were burned or confiscated. In desperation, Afro-Peruvians started to play with old wooden boxes. Little did they know that Cajon would be famous worldwide. Today, international bands such as Coldplay interpret songs playing Cajon Peruano.

Cajonero Rafael Santa Cruz, the nephew of Nicomedes, organized the International Festival of Cajon Peruano in 2013. After Rafael’s untimely death in 2014, the event grew larger. The festival is performed in February every year. The festival congregates the best Peruvian Cajon percussionists and aficionados.

Date: April 28 to May 1st.

Average Attendance: 100,000 people.

Tourist Advice: Bring your camera and be ready to make beautiful memories.

In April 2015, Peru made a new Guiness World Record congregating more than 2,400 cajoneros:

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Se celebró con baile y alegría el Festival del Cajón Peruano

Takanakuy – The Fighting Festival in Peru

In this July 14, 2013 photo, Eloy Luna, left, and Rony Garate fight during a Takanakuy ritual fight in Lima, Peru. When the brightly hued ski masks come off, the punching and kicking begin. Only once a judge has ruled one of the combatants licked do they stop fighting. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)Image Source: Huffington Post

During Christmas, some Quechuas reject Christianity through kicks and punches. If urban residents have soccer, wild parties and mosh pits, Quechuas have the Takanakuy. On this day, people get drunk to numb themselves from pain. Afterward, women, men and children engage in fighting matches. Takanakuy has expanded to cities where Quechuas emigrated, such as Villa el Salvador (Lima). Authorities have attempted to stop these events. It was all in vain.

Quechua writer Victor Mantilla said: “Takanakuy is seen as ‘savage’ by urban authorities. They are wrong. Peru has never had one uniform culture. There are over forty cultures with different ways of perceiving the world. This is what they need to understand.”

Date: December 25

Average Attendance: Approx. 1000 people in every town

Tourist Advice: Those who reject violence not advised to attend.

Now watch the spectacular Takanakuy fights:

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 Mistura – the Festival of International Gastronomy

1197908Image Source: El Comercio

Chef Gaston Acurio is more than a celebrity. The creator of the International Gastronomy festival of Lima has almost two million facebook followers. His celebrity status is due to his unrelenting promotion of Peruvian food around the world.

Peru is now an Empire in the gastronomy world. However, back in 2008, our cuisine was at an early stage. Chef Gaston Acurio believed Peru had the potential to achieve more. He then took a leap of faith.

Gaston had the idea of promoting Peruvian cuisine in a festival. The first event, named “Peru, mucho gusto” only had 36 chefs, attracted 20,00 visitors and obtained a meager $100,000 US in revenue. Seven years later, this Festival, renamed Mistura, features over 400 different chefs, attracts over half a million people and collects a revenue of $ 12 million dollars US.

Gaston’s dream is now a reality. Mistura is one of the greatests culinary festival in the world. Gaston recently said: “Our chefs are well trained to offer our culinary tradition to the world. It is time to start doing great things, to dream without limits and without fear.”

Date: From September 2 to September 11.

Average Attendance: Aprox. half a million people.

Tourist Advice: Mistura Dishes are quite expensive for those with a limited budget.

Here is a clip of the Mistura Festival in 2o15:

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Related Content: Peruvian Cuisine Has Conquered The World: The 49 Best Peruvian Restaurants Around The World

Festival of Saint Rose of Lima, Chiquian – The Splendid Patronal Feast

santa rosita 2Image Source: Chiquian Yerupaja

Saint Rose is Peru’s most famous saint. Born in 1856, Rose joined the order of the Dominican nuns as a teenager. She led an ascetic life, giving charity to the poor and sick. After a life of self-imposed penitence, Santa Rosa died at 31. She was canonized and dubbed patroness of the Americas, of indigenous tribes and the Philippines. There are dozens of Saint Rose festivities in Lima, Arequipa, Ancash and Junin. The date of the festivals varies according to the jurisdiction. 

The best Santa Rosa feast is held in Chiquian, Ancash. Each year, a Chiquiano assumes the task of organizing the festivity. All activities are planned for months in advance: Local bands, buffets, dance contest, bull running events, parades, ritual ceremonies, soccer tournaments, fireworks, etc. Six exhilarating days of drinking, eating and dancing. No Saint Rose festivity in Peru compares to Fiesta Chiquiana. Guaranteed.

Date: August 29

Average Attendance: 20,000 people

Tourist Advice: Taste the Chinguirito, the traditional alcoholic drink of Chiquianos.

The Santa Rosa feast has a surreal fireworks show:

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The Guinea Pig Festival – The Peruvian Guinea Pig Runway Show

cuy fashionImage Source: Agro Junin

In the Inca Empire, Llamas were a source of wealth. Owned by the state, noblemen bred Llamas to maximize their population. Besides eating Llama meat, Incas consumed Guinea Pigs on special occasions. In general, two habits defined Inca noblemen: chewing coca leaves and eating guinea pigs.

The Peruvian government assigned October 9 as the Guinea Pig Day. Andean towns commemorate it with a big Festival. Local residents of Cajamarca, Huancayo and Cuzco dress up their guinea pigs, preparing them for the “Cuy Fashion contest”.

The guinea pig that wins the competition is spared the frying pan. The rest are cooked for the food exhibition. Delicious Cuy recipes are offered to the public: Guinea pig soup, the Chi jau cuy (a Guinea pig Chifa recipe), Cuy a la Mostaza, Cuy al Palo, Cuy on Peanut sauce and Ceviche de Cuy.

Date: October 9.

Average Attendance: Approx. 300 hundred people per town.

Tourist Advice: Take photos of the beautiful Guinea pig customs.

Some Guinea Pigs wear cool customs with hats, necklaces, sandals, ponchos, etc:

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Pancho y María se lucen en Tercer Festival del Cuy, en Chota

The Japanese Cultural Week – Honoring the Fabulous Japanese Contributions

04.Ceremonia-del-Té2Image Source: Pasatiempo

In November, Japanese Peruvians celebrate the Japanese cultural week. The Peruvian Japanese Cultural Center designs a program assembling a diverse set of activities. The show usually includes bonsai art, origami lessons, sake tasting, and the theatrical drama of Kabuki. There is also a demonstration of martial arts and lectures regarding the sacred Samurai ethics.

Peruvian teenagers adore Anime. Last year, the Japanese Cultural Center presented a 聖闘士星矢 Saint Seiya (Caballeros del Zodiaco) exhibition. 

Date: November 3 to November 14.

Average Attendance: 30,000 people.

Tourist Advice: Study a little about the exhibitions before attending any of them. It will be more exciting.

Now enjoy this clip of the dance exhibition at the Centro Cultural Peruano Japones:

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42ª Semana Cultural del Japón: Danzas y canciones del Japón

The Chinese Cultural Week – The Dragon Parade at Calle Capón

6526f598-9911-4e50-bbeb-b94d00e6c07fImage Source: Redacción La Mula

In 1854, 100,000 Chinese nationals arrived through Callao port. Originally employed as farm workers, the Chinese abandoned the fields to settle in Lima. Many took to the streets to sell ‘Emoliente’. Overall, the Chinese had a steady adjustment. Peruvian ladies regarded Chinese men as an “excellent catch”. In their eyes, Chinese men were “honest, hardworking, thrifty, faithful and obedient.” Chinese descendants continued to thrive in Peruvian society.

In 1860, Sino Peruvians built the ‘Barrio Chino’ in Lima. This cultural center revolves around Capon street, which has the best Chifas (Chinese restaurants.) In 1982, the Chinese diaspora founded the Sino-Peruvian cultural center. They have activities all year long. But their biggest celebration is the Chinese New Year. It begins with prayers in the Chinese temple, followed by a dragon parade accompanied by a fireworks show.

Date: February 8.

Average Attendance: 20,000 people.

Tourist Advice: Chinese food in the US is not as good as the delicious Peruvian Chifa. Keep Calm and eat some Chifa.

Now watch the “most spectacular video” of the Chinese festivities at Calle Capon:

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AÑO NUEVO CHINO 2016 EN PERU ...el mejor video que hayas visto

The Vendimia Festival – Tasting Delicious Peruvian Wines

000058844WImage Source: Andina

Peru’s fine land and weather gained us recognition for our wine. Our major wine ‘Festival de la Vendimia is held’ in Ica. Last year, the event drew 800,000 guests. La Vendimia includes a variety show, wine tasting, and a beauty contest. Finally, the barefooted queen and the finalists step on a vat full of grapes. For centuries, Iqueños used such method to produce wine. 

How did La Vendimia start? An “obscure writer” read that La Vendimia was first practiced by the Incas. This anonymous author published this idea in the paper “La Voz de Ica”, in 1958, suggesting a reenactment. Iqueño government endorsed the proposal. The first Vendimia was a major success. In 1965, international producers began participating in it.

Date: From March 4 to March 8.

Average Attendance: 800,000 people.

Tourist Advice: Some Peruvians travel to Ica specifically to buy some wine. Buy some bottles to enjoy the best Peruvian wine.

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Vendimia de Ica 2014 se inaugura con tradicional Pisa de Uva

Inti Raymi Festival – Honoring “Pacha Mama” at Sacsayhuaman

000299972WImage Source: Andina

Inti Raymi was the greatest Inca celebration. Celebrating the Andean New Year, Inti Raymi was performed to honor Pachamama (Mother Earth) and the Sun (Inti). It was a nine-day festival of dances, processions and Llama sacrifices. After the Spanish conquest, Inti Raymi was forbidden. Four centuries later, Cuzqueño writer Faustino Espinoza Navarro revived this tradition in 1944. Faustino Espinoza, also an actor, convinced his colleagues to reenact this ceremony at Sacsayhuaman Inca fortress. The first Inti Raymi attracted lots of publicity. Since then, it has been staged on June 24 every year.

Nowadays, Inti Raymi has a massive tourist attendance, reaching a yearly average of 200,000 people. Tickets cost around 100 US dollars. 

Date: June 24.

Average Attendance: 200,000 people.

Tourist Advice: Attend Inti Raymi before visiting Macchu Pichu

Inti Raymi is promoted by the Peruvian government with a fascinating video:

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Inti Raymi 2016

Festival del Pisco – Praising the Unparalleled Peruvian Pisco

000201736WImage Source: Andina

Chile and Peru have argued about who was the first inventor of Pisco. Academics have quarreled back and forth to no avail. In order to clarify this conundrum, Peru created the National Day of Peruvian Pisco. This was a great reason to organize the first Peruvian Pisco Festival in 2014. On February 5th, Pisco producers from Tacna, Cañete, Ica and Huaral travel to Lima to participate. Our Peruvian bartenders serve samples of both Pisco and Maracuya sour.

Pisco sour was allegedly invented by “El Gringo” Victor Morris, an American bartender in Lima. But this is fallacious. In any case, Morris only named it ‘Pisco Sour’. But the drink has long precedence in Peru. In 1791, the colonial fanzine Mercurio Peruano published a story about a drink called Ponche. Made with lemon juice and aguardiente, Ponche was sold on Lima’s streets. Peruvians have then been drinking Pisco Sour for over four centuries.

Date: July 15

Average Attendance: 15,000 people in Surco.

Tourist Advice: If you want to prolong the fun, drink slowly.

There are many Pisco festivals and it is hard to pinpoint one. They are all great. Peruvians even have a Pisco Festival in Madrid, as the video below shows:

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Virgen del Carmen Festival – Making Peace with the Dead

000303824WImage Source: Portal Andina

Paucartambo is an old town located a few miles from Cuzco. Although it lacks basic infrastructure, Paucartambo has arguably one of the most beautiful festivals in Peru. The Virgen del Carmen festival is a religious feast held on July 15. This festivity stands above the rest due to the beautiful masks Paucartambinos wear.

The Virgen del Carmen effigy is carried around the streets. Paucartambinos call her “Mamacha or Mamachita Carmen”. This ceremony fulfills one of the oldest rituals in mankind: to make peace with the dead. For most ancient cultures, refusing to forget and forgive the grievances of our ancestors only bring awful curses on the living. Paucartambinos forget and forgive, and thus they have a better life.

Paucartambinos can get drunk, and tourist agents recommend to “be sure to bring an open mind, flexibility and a sense of humor. Be prepared to go with the flow and accept their means and methods of celebration.”

Date: July 15

Average Attendance: 15,000 people

Tourist Advice: Bring an open mind and a sense of humor.

Enjoy this clip from Virgen del Carmen Festival:

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Serpentina del Perú - SET15 - La Virgen del Carmen de Paucartambo. Parte 4/4 - Bloque 5

The Yawar Fiesta – The ‘Bloody Feast’ of Peasant Communities

photo-originalImage Source: KickStarter

Yawar Fiesta (Bloody Feasthas enraged animal rights groups over the years. Yet, Yawar Fiesta is a testament of the abuses Spaniards committed against peasant communities. Yawar Fiesta was first practiced in colonial times, in the regions of Apurimac and Ayacucho. Peasants performed it every year to represent their struggle.

In Cotabambas, Apurimac, a Condor is captured and held captive days before the celebration. On July 28, the Condor is given aguardiente to drink to be then tied to the back of a bull. The bull is thrown into the arena, while the Condor fights to free itself. The bull represents the Spaniards while the Condor personifies the Incas.

If the Condor dies, it is believed that misfortunes would befall upon the town. There are over 50 Yawar Fiestas across Peru. The government is under pressure to stop Yawar Fiesta. But the debate “tradition vs modernity” continues. A journalist said: “Here, these people have these customs. If there’s not a condor, there’s no festival. When they put the condor on top of the bull is a way of saying the Inca is back. For these forgotten towns, it’s important to have that feeling — at least once a year they can have hope.”

Date: July 28

Average Attendance: Approx. 1,000 people in Apurimac.

Tourist Advice: Animal Rights advocates not advised to attend.

Now watch the Yawar Fiesta in Antabamba, Apurimac:

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