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Roguery, mischief and colors: the Dance of Saqra

It is one of the main performances during the Festival of the Virgen del Carmen (Our Lady of Mount Carmel), from July 15th to July 19th. This traditional dance had its origins in the late 19th century in the province of Paucartambo, Cusco and was inspired by the sacred paintings of the so called “Mamacha Carmen”. Saqra means roguery, restlessness, agility or mischief in English and all that is reflected in this wonderful performance in honor of the Virgin.

It is said that Saqra dance seeks to tempt the Virgin and her faithful devotees with rogue moves by the dancers, who perform very close to the procession. The dance shows respect for the Virgin since the dancers are not allowed to make eye contact with the Virgin while performing their moves.

The mischievous Saqra dancers wear masks of animals such as pigs, bats, dogs, cats, among others for its performance so they cannot be recognized by those who carry the litter of “Mamacha Carmen”. However, during the days of the festival, it is said that the Virgin provides shelter and protection to Saqra dancers so they do not suffer any accidents while trying to lead her into temptation.

The Saqra dancers cannot enter the church wearing their masks. They must take them off if they want to participate in the mass of the Virgen del Carmen, “Mother of the Mestizos”. This dance is a derisory and ironic version of the belief that the “devil” wants to be close to the devotees and the Virgin to lead them into temptation, but cannot succeed and, at the end, faith for the Virgin prevails no matter what.

Characters in the Dance of Saqra

–          Caporal

–          Primer Capitán (First Captain)

–          Segundo Capitán (Second Captain)

–          China Saqra

–          Soldados (Soldiers)

–          Mascotas (Mascots)

–          Maitas

–          Carguyoc

Dancer’s Costumes

The Saqra dancers usually wear masks of animals, big wigs that cover their faces, and horns of deer. Their costumes are from the colonial era, handmade, embroidered, and filled with a variety of bright colors. Also, they wear gloves shaped like claws and hold a hook for pulling people out of the procession of the Virgen del Carmen. The costume has accessories and ornaments like pearls, precious stones and shiny silk.

Some dancers wear regular clothes to differentiate embroidery and functions. China Saqra, the only woman in this performance, wears a very short pollera. The Maitas have over their heads a Waqoyllo (wool mask), colored ribbons, short or long black pants, flip-flops and long socks.

We invite you to enjoy this unique dance and all the wonders awaiting in Paucartambo!

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