Between Cusco and the Manu National Park lies a remote town called Paucartambo (Paucartambo province, Cusco district). Paucartambo called itself the folklore province of Peru and the best time to explore this is during the celebration in honor of the Virgen del Carmen. Every year, between 15 and 18 July the town attracts thousands of visitors, the majority of them Peruvian.
The origins of the festivity of the Virgen del Carmen go back to the verbal tradition of colonial and republican days. The cult started during the 17th century when people from the “Qollas” in the high Andes arrived in Paucartambo with their packs of llamas, to trade their products. During one of these visits, to the astonishment of migrants and natives, the face of the virgin was miraculously revealed embossed on a clay vase. This discovery was adopted to eternalize her full image, which was sculpted by craftsmen from Paucartambo, a temple also being built where they venerated her with prayers and canticles.
The Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen is an ongoing street parade of 19 different groups, called comparsas. Every group (many of them have Quechua names) respects its ancestry and resembles its own part in the ritual of the fiesta, for example Saqra (devils), Wakawaka (bulls), Panadero (bakers), Negrillos (blacks) and Majeño (salesmen from Arequipa). They have their own music, dance and costumes. Between the rituals of the comparsas, including inaugurations, festivities and a guerrilla, all groups walk through Paucartambo in solemn processions.
Watch a documentary by Alejandro Guerrero here.