Approaching the Andean Carnival
Carnaval andino "Con la fuerza del sol"
The International Andean Carnival "Con la fuerza del sol" (in Aymara, inti ch'amampi), is a celebration that takes place in Arica (XV Region, Big North of Chile) during the last days of January or the first of February. This festival, which started in 2002 and has been going on annually ever since, aims to collect and share folkloric expressions from the north of Chile and neighbouring areas of the Bolivian Altiplano and the south of Peru. The growing number of participating "comparsas" (carnival groups) present spectacular and dazzling dances such as caporales, morenadas, tinkus, tobas, tarkeadas, tumbas (Afro-Chilean dance with origins in the Valley of Azapa), sayas, zampoñadas, waka-wakas, suri sikuris and diabladas. Year after year, the festival brings together the colours, sounds and traditions of the area.
Held in February, when the rest of the Andean world celebrates Carnival, the Pawkar Raymi of Peguche (valley of Otavalo, province of Imbabura, Ecuador) is a traditional festival that celebrates the blossom of the maize plant. It is part of the Kichwa people heritage and includes the Tumari Pukllay (water and flower games), sport competitions, fireworks display (the famous "castles") and the performance of traditional music by popular bands and folk groups.
Additional information on this festival can be found at Otavalos Online and El Comunicador Pucesi (both in Spanish).
Fiesta de la Candelaria
The Festival of the Virgin of Candelaria, venerated as the patroness of the city of Puno (capital of the department of the same name, located to the south of Peru), is held during the first fortnight of February, coinciding with the Carnival celebrations taking place across the Andes. The indigenous imaginary sees the Virgin or "mamacha" (in Quechua, "mummy") as closely related to the Pachamama, thus the coinciding dates of both celebrations are not accidental.
This is one of the most important religious festivals in South America which brings together numerous audience and is joined by over 40.000 dancers and 5.000 musicians. During its celebration, Puno becomes a place that welcomes every single dance, rhythm, style and instrument executed by the Aymara in the Lake Titicaca area and their Quechua neighbours to the north. The town is flooded with performers and aficionados who gather there to share the musical folklore of that part of the Andes.
Carnaval de La Rioja
Popularly known as "chaya" (from the verb ch'allay, in Quechua "offer up water or drink to the forces of nature"), the Carnival celebrated in the province of La Rioja (Argentina) has gained praise and fame for retaining much of the original character and charm of Argentina's "northern" or "Andean" Carnival. Locals and visitors can view the traditional bunches of basil (symbol of the Carnestolendas in the whole northern part of the country), participate in the "flour and water" games, and listen to such unique rhythms and styles as the "chaya riojana" or the coplas, vidalas and bagualas from the neighbouring provinces of Salta and Tucumán.
Carnavales de Cusco
The department of Cusco, located in the Peruvian Sierra Central, is home to many festivities and events linked to the Carnival. One after another, parades and processions entertain the crowd on the streets of every single village of the so called "Valle Sagrado de los Incas" ("Sacred Valley of the Incas", including Pisaq, Coya, Calca, Urubamba...) and those located in the provinces of Canas, Canchis and Chumbivilcas. Ones and the others are lived up with traditional music (e.g. the qhaswas), popular beverages (like the famous "chicha de jora" made of fermented maize), typically rural dishes and the traditional dress of each community. In addition, the Carnival is still, as it was in the old days, the time when love ignites between young people; a time when the entire region of Cusco welcomes joy and a sense of freedom while performing songs and dances.