I remember Paucartambo, its two-storied adobe houses painted white, some with blue balconies. I remember its narrow streets where the wind, the moon, and sun roam during the year. The Mapacho River sings and reflects everything. I also remember well the happy faces and masks that dance throughout the town during the celebration of the Virgen of Carmen.
The central day of her feast is celebrated with great fervor. Devotees come from Peru’s three regions as well as from abroad. They await the dawn mass that takes place at 5 am. The central chapel is filled. Some people light their candles. Others raise songs and prayers to the image of the Virgin of Carmen in the tight space where the Virgin rests.
With the first bells’ pealing it becomes a great celebration. The various dance troupes have gathered to receive the Mamacha Carmen’s blessing which will take place around 10 am.
You can hear the songs in Quechua of the Qollas and the Qhapac Negro. Then all the rest come in dancing through the place and the streets to accompany the Virgin in her procession. They include: Maqtas, Auqachileno, Contradanza, Chunchachas, Chukchu, Kachampa, Majeño, Panadero, Qhapac Negro, Qhapac Chuncho, Qhapac Qolla, Qoyacha, Saqra, Siclla Huayra, Danzaq, Negrillos, and Waca Wacas.
From balconies around the plaza some of the Qollas with toss dolls and miniature furniture to those gathered. The devotees gather them with much faith and pleasure.
After having enjoyed a lunch of lechón, which is typical, the foundors, dancers, and musicians of all the troupes gather to make the great procession with the Virgin.
At 3 pm the great procession begins. On the rooftops and balconies by the Plaza, the saqras in their colorful costumes hide themselves while waiting to see the image of the Virgin pass by. Throughout its path people show great devotion to the Mamacha. The faithful throw out colorful flower petals. People sing to her and pray to her to the beat of the musicians as she makes stops to rain blessings on all.
At night there is another great feast of colors. Fireworks will shine in the night sky raising moments of joy for all. At the same time, the bands of musicians will play and people will dance bringing happiness and joy to all present as they gather in groups of friends and family.
The day’s celebration is magical and very real at the same time. It has a profound religious, social and ritual meaning. You can see this in how people maintain their identity and customs as Andean and Mestizo peoples.