Virgen of Candelaria

(Also known as the Virgen de Chapi, or the Virgen de Copacabana)

First two weeks of February.

Puno, 12,770 feet above sea level (3,870 meters), is famous as the jumping off point for excursions to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. Puno is also famous as hosting one of the biggest Catholic feasts in Peru, the "Candelaria." During 16 days, from the 2nd to the 18th of February, Catholic devotion and the carnival spirit mix in the streets, with thousands of dancers and musicians moving around the city in an endless parade.

The feast starts before dawn on February 2nd, when the authorities go to the top of a hill to make homage to the Virgin Mary, patron of Puno. Then, with the first rays of light, they descend to the city among firecrackers, bands and dancers, toward the San Juan Bautista Church, which is the sanctuary of the image of "Virgen de la Candelaria". After the mass, the first procession of the image of "Virgen de la Candelaria" takes place. In the afternoon, people from the countryside enter the city on horses accompanied by the "yachiris" (shamans and witch-doctors) who also present their honors to the image.

On the first Sunday of February, a big competition takes place in the city's stadium. Up to 70 groups of dancers from different towns and communities come to Puno to compete in an incredible contest of typical dances. The average group size is 100 people (with dancers and musicians) and they perform choreographed dances wearing typical costumes. They compete in honor of the "Virgen de la Candelaria" and for the pride of their town or community. After the contest, the groups of dancers continue dancing on the streets, which turns the city into a huge party for the next 7 days.

Nevertheless, the real party starts on the 8th day of the feast, and during the next 8 days hundreds of people take to the streets. Huge parades with as many as 300 people, all dressed up in outfits of devils and demons, will fill the city with music and magic. There is another competition between the neighbourhoods of the city who organize these parades and perform in the last 8 days of the feast. The prize goes to the parade with the best outfits and performance. The outfits include heavy masks and dresses with mirrors and jewels. Most of it has been prepared especially for the feast.

The celebrations end on the 18th, but only until the next year when the people of Puno will again go to the streets to dance in honour of their patron, the "Virgen de la Candelaria".

Virgen de Copacabana

The Virgen de Copacabana  (Blessed Virgin of the Candelaria, Our Lady of Copacabana) is the patron saint of Bolivia. She is venerated in Bolivia during her feast day of February 2, the day of the Purification of Mary, or feast of the Virgen de la Candelaria. She is also venerated on August 5 with her own liturgy and popular celebration.

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Join our cultural tour to the Fiesta of the Virgen of Candelaria! Please email us directly for more details!