Paucartambo Celebrates the Mamacha Carmen

The Mamacha Carmen, the Virgen of Mount Carmel, strides calmly into view today as all over her feast is celebrated.  In Paucartambo, the capital of a province of Cusco by the same time, it breaks into full celebration along with ritual drama.

Buses and private cars from the city of Cuzco have made their way to the small and charming colonial town, inbetween the highlands and lowlands.  It throbs with people.  They have come to see and participate, as well as to eat and dance.

Virgen del Carmen (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Virgen del Carmen (Walter Coraza Morveli)

A collage of dances and dance troupes will be parading through the town mostly of residents, that is to say of former Paucartambinos now residing elsewhere who return to pay homage and to re-establish and maintain their claim to the town. The hermandades, the brotherhoods, that organize each troupe has contracted a place where they can dine and perform in group business and ritual, as well as where they can show their hospitality and invite whoever shadows their open doorway to join them in meal.

Key here are the highlanders, the Qolla traders, as well as the lowlanders, the Chunchos, who come and performa ritual battle as part of the feast at the same time they bring gifts to those assembled in Paucartambo.

When the Lady of Carmen processes from her church she will be accompanied by multitudes in her powerful and sedate entrance at the same time the Saqra, demons, will be on rooftops and balconies to try to tempt her to succumb.  That temptation, while laden with Christian color ostensibly, also carries deep Andean understanding of the ongoing struggle between sky and earth (heaven and hell) where neither one nor the other vanquishes. Rather they continue as opposites and tempting each other. 

Dancers in Paucartambo(Walter Coraza Morveli)
Dancers in Paucartambo(Walter Coraza Morveli)

Nevertheless, the moment is overwhelming in majesty, sound, and power. 

Paucartambo swells to magnitudes its original size with merchants and tourists from all over.  People often stay up all night to drink and be part of revelry as the carnivalesque takes over from the policed and formal part of the fiesta.

In any case, not just in Paucartambo, but throughout Peru, the Lady of Carmen is revered and honored. Today is an important day in this still very Catholic country.

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