Customs, Travel

Fun, Celebration, and Food in the Great Feast of Paucartambo

Qoyacha Dancers

Three days you will not ever forget take place if you go to the fiesta in Paucartambo. You experience faith, dancing, fireworks and so much fun.  Together they make this fiesta the best one of Cuzco.

Thousands of people from different cities of Peru, as well as tourists, come to this nice small town to celebrate a feast that last three days you will never forget in Paucartambo. Faith, dancing, fireworks and so much fun make of this festivity the best one of Cuzco.

Thousands of people from different cities of Peru and also tourists arrive to this nice small town to celebrate the festive of the Virgin of Carmen who is also called the Mamacha del Carmen.

The fiesta takes place from the 15th to the 18th of July every year. On the first day, at midday the the main plaza dresses up in beautiful colors to begin the feast while many people are still arriving. Then, colorful dance troups and their bands appear dancing around the plaza.  There are eighteen traditional dances.

At night, Paucartambo has fireworks – including the burning of dramatic firework castles. People enjoy the whole night by dancing and drinking beer to celebrate the fiesta´s opening.

Mamacha del Carmen Making her Procession
Mamacha del Carmen Making her Procession

The 16th is the main day. It is when the Mamacha del Carmen makes her procession down the main street, followed by beautiful dances. I arrived this day with two friends Arnold and Trevor. It was my second time in Paucartambo. We found ourselves in a big party.

Everywhere you go in town is loads of fun.  Everybody was drinking beer having a great time enjoying the fiesta.

There were clowns called maqtillos who wear funny masks and make jokes to everyone. They love to tease beautiful women. They always pose for photos with girls while making jokes.

Our hopes were made reality.  We hoped to have a good time in the fiesta, visit the cargos, the banquets of each of the eighteen dances where there are parties food, dance and drink. We also wanted go to “Tres Cruces” to the see the magical sunrise of Tayta Inti.

Tres Cruces is the other especial reason of this fiesta. It is located at the high altitude of 3,739 meters above sea level and is 35 km from the city of Paucartambo.  It is an overlook where all the Andinos go to see the spectacular sunrise.

That night we did not sleep. We had a good time dancing and visiting some cargos.

Early morning of the 17th is when many people go to Tres Cruces. We left the city at 2 am and took a bus to get in and see the sunrise,.  If you ever go you should take warm clothes because it is very cold but well worth it.

A Moment Alone for a Saqra Dancer
A Moment Alone for a Saqra Dancer

The sunrise was incredible.  It was amazing when the sun appeared for the first moment in the morning. Everybody celebrated and was happy.  Some people called Tayta Inti Grand Father.  The first light´s rays are the blessing.

After the sunrise everybody went back to the city and continued celebrating the feast.  One of the good things was their food.  They offered caldos, soups, as a breakfast like caldo de gallina, caldo de cordero. They also had lechón baked pork.  I have to say that there also was fast food like pizzas, sandwiches, anticuchos, and more.

During this day there the dancers continue dancing but there is a fight between two dances the Chunchus and the Qollas who wants to take the virgin with them. The Chunchus fight to save her.

This festive is actually great and show us a lot of its history, its magical culture and its folklore, it is a really good experience where the fun, traditional dances captures the Virgin of Carmen (also called “Mamacha del carmen”).

The festive take place on 15th to 18th of July every year, in the first day at mid day the the main plaza dress of beautiful colors to begin the party while many people is arriving, then colorful dances and their bands appear dancing around the plaza, there are eighteen traditional dances, at night there is fireworks and the burning of firework castels. The whole night people enjoy dancing and drinking beer, celebrating the first day of the festa.

Qhapaq Ch'unchu in the Middle of the Festive
Qhapaq Ch’unchu in the Middle of the Festive

On 16th is the main day it is when the Mamacha del Carmen makes her procession down the main street followed by beautiful dances. I arrived this day with two friends Arnold and Trevor, It was my second time I have been in Paucartambo. We found ourselves in a big party.

Everywhere in the town you go in really fun and everybody was drinking beer, having a great time, and enjoying the fiesta.

There were clowns called maqtillos who wear funny masks and make jokes to everyone. They love to tease the beautiful women They would pose for a photo with the girls while making jokes.

Our expectations became reality. Our idea was to have a good time in the fiesta, visit the banquets of each of the eighteen dances where there are parties, food, dance, and drink. We also hoped to go to “Tres Cruces” to the see the magical sunrise of the Tayta Inti.

Tres Cruces is the other especial reason for this fiesta. It is located at high altitude of 3,739 meters above sea level and 35 km from the city of Paucartambo. It is an overlook where all the Andinos go to see the spectacular sunrise,

This night we did not sleep. We were spending time dancing and visiting some cargos. Early in the morning of the 17th is when people go to Tres Cruces. We left the city at 2 am. We took a bus to get in and see the sunrise. If you ever go you should take warm clothes because it is very cold but worth it.

Sunrise in Tres Cruces, Paucartambo
Sunrise in Tres Cruces, Paucartambo

The sunrise was incredible. It was amazing when the sun appeared for the first moment in the morning. Everybody celebrated and was happy. Some called Tayta Inti “Grand Father”. The first light’s rays are the blessing.

After the sunrise everybody went back to the city and continued celebrating the feast. One of the good things was their food. They offered caldos, soups, as a breakfast like caldo de gallina, caldo de cordero. They also had lechón, baked pork. There also was fast food like, pizzas sandwiches, anticuchos and more.

During this day the dancers continued dancing but there was a festive fight between two dances the Chunchus and the Qollas. The Qollas want to take the Virgin with them and the Chunchus fight to save her.

This fiesta is actually great and shows us a lot of its history, its magical culture and its folklore. It is a really good experience. The fun and traditional dances capture us.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi! The pictures are great and make me feel like I’m there. I have a question. You called this a fiesta, a celebration, a festive (?), a feast, and a party. Is there a difference between a festive and a fiesta? I’m sure there are different words for it in spanish. Is there one word that fits this celebration? There are so many festivals and I want to know the difference.

  2. Hi. You are perceptive. I was editing Walter’s article, which he wrote in English and decided to leave the word “festive” which he was using throughout. Your question brings up the point of the differences between the Spanish–or a Peruvain Spanish speaking writer’s usage, and mainstream English. There is just no easy way in English to express the complexity of a fiesta. Most of the time I took Walter’s “festive” and used the Hispanism “fiesta” though that does not work either.

    The Spanish would be a fiesta, which is a big public celebration and a party. Here it is a Saint’s Day (that of the Virgin of Mount Carmel), involves lots of formal dances and processions, not to forget masses and meetings. At the same time people watch and drink. The dancers also drink and eat, at times. At moments the fiesta becomes more like a Beer Garden party. And there are all kinds of private parties around the edges.

    All of this comes into the Peruvian Spanish fiesta, which Walter was trying to express as “festive” (his made up word), since feasting is only a small part of what they do. Though it was my error to leave the one usage of “festive” without putting it in English, it did motivate your comment.

    And, the truth is, in matters of fiestas Peruvian Spanish just does not pair up with English well.

    Thanks.

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