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Paucartambo Festival

Paucartambo Festival is held every year as from July 15th to July 19th, to pay tribute to Virgen del Carmen (Our Lady of Mount Carmel), also called Mamacha del Carmen, mother of all Paucartambo citizens who fervently celebrate this festivity organized by the town. In this festival, citizens leave their daily chores behind and dress up in beautiful brilliantly colored costumes, wearing masks that cover their faces and dancing their forefather’s dances.

Paucartambo’s Festival of Virgen del Carmen was declared as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Peruvian National Institute of Culture on April 11th, 2016. The sacred image of the so-called “Patron Saint of Mestizos” is located in the district of Paucartambo at 3 017 m.a.s.l. It takes 4 hours by bus from the city of Cusco to get to this town.

Paucartambo is considered as the folk capital of the region because of its gorgeous history and cultural blending. Its myriad dances, nationally recognized, accompany the path of Virgen del Carmen procession, including dances such as Saqra, Chuncho, Contradanza, Tarpuy, Qollacha, Qapac Negro, Panaderos, Auqa Chileno, Huaca Huaca, among others. Besides, dancers dance for three days in a row as a tribute to Our Lady of Carmel to receive blessings and protection.

It is believed that the origins of Virgen del Carmen Festival took place in the 17th century when inhabitants of the high Andean plateau area carrying their herd of llamas came to the Province of Paucartambo to barter with locals. In one of the many travels, immigrants and locals saw the face of a virgin in a clay pot. From that apparition, locals sculpted an image of the virgin and built a temple to venerate her.

The sculpture of the virgin is very important to locals. According to traditions, it is believed that the colors of the virgin cheeks have different meanings. If her cheeks are rosy, it augurs well for locals, but if they are pale, it means bad times for the town.

Paucartambo’s Virgen del Carmen was also recognized as the “Patron Saint of Folk Dances” in 1972 and was acknowledged by the Pope John Paul II in 1985. Learn more about the festivity to venerate Our Lady of Mount Carmel above.

Festival Program

July 15th

Festival starts with a firework display and the tolling of bells. Then, a troupe comes in and the evening becomes perfect to start a bonfire. After a group of locals dramatizes the purgatory through acrobatic jumps, races, and various mischievous acts, at 11:00 p.m, the music band plays a serenade for the Virgin until dawn.

July 16th

It is the main day of this magnificent festivity. It starts with a mass at 5:00 a.m., then another mass at 10:00 a.m. in which the songs of Qollas and Qhapac Negros (ancient cultures of Paucartambo) are played. At the end, this sacred day, troupes, dances and singing take over the streets.

July 17th

The great procession of Virgen del Carmen is held on this day, starting at 3:00 p.m. A marvelous and unique thing from this festivity is the performance of the dancers dressed up in brightly colored costumes and masks. People get up to ceilings and balconies, dancing to the rhythm of the music band’s songs. The Saqras are in charge of waiting for the “Patron Saint of Mestizos”. This day is considered as a blessing day and the troupe goes to cemeteries to show their respect to the dearly departed dancers.

July 18th

On this date, the virgin is taken to the temple and kids wait to be blessed by the priest in the traditional ceremony called “ocarikuy”. At 4:00 p.m., the celebration is over with priest blessing for all the community.

July 19th

It is the last day of jubilee. At 11:00 a.m. the sacred image is placed on the altar where a very special ceremony for locals called the change of clothes will be held. People say goodbye to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in their prayers and stay in the temple until the very last moment.

Learn more about this majestic celebration labeled with the ancient culture of Cusco. Experience and feel the fervor for Paucartambo’s Virgen del Carmen Festival!

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