Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Festive Parade!


What a nice surprise we had this afternoon. I love traveling for festivals and have planned several trips around them - Naadam in Mongolia, Semana Santa in Guatemala, Esala Perahera in Sri Lanka, Timket in Ethiopia and in the not-so-distant future, Hemis in India.  So,  you can imagine my joy when I discovered we were in San Pedro at the same time that one of the most important festivals in the region was taking place.  I had never heard of the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria before so I had to quickly educate myself.

In the 18th century, a group of miners and muleteers stumbled upon a statue of the Virgin and Child when they were forced to seek shelter following a sudden thunderstorm in the Atacama desert. While the original figure is now said to be house in a chapel in the city of Copiapó, in the heart of the Chilean desert, the Virgen de la Candelaria is celebrated and worshipped throughout Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela and Bolivia at the annual Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria. Owing to its close proximity to the original site of the discovery, festivities in San Pedro de Atacama are especially noteworthy.

The main draw is the parade, which makes for quite the spectacle in such a small town. The colorful (and often scary looking) costumes and masks, dances and music reflect a fusion of indigenous cultures and Catholicism.   Marching bands provide the music and beats that keep the performers moving and the crowds in festive spirit.  According to the shop keeper we spoke to last night, most of the performers are from San Pedro and Calama but in today's parade, we did notice banners declaring the names of places in Peru as well as Bolivia.
  
It just so happens that the hostel we're staying in is located pretty much at the starting point of the parade route so the moment we heard the bands playing, we rushed out to watch the procession of musicians and dancers.  We had a front row seat!!  Typically, I would have pay money for the privilege of having an unobstructed view but today, no one was blocking me!  So lucky to have been able to experience this event!

I recognized several from last night's performances at Plaza de Armas.



The parade started around 1p and it was incredibly hot outside.  Many of the parade participants took off their masks until they just about reached Caracoles, the main street that was the official starting point of the parade.



Of course, the star of the show is the Virgin Mary.  Several of her images were carried along the parade route.


Even nuns and a priest marched along, not looking very comfortable though.  I think the heat was getting to them.  :-(



No doubt that my favorite costumes were the very scary looking but very colorful ones!






There were some seriously cool masks and head dresses.  I give them high marks for imagination and creativity.  This is not stuff you buy off the internet!      





Every group had their own choreographed set of moves.








Then came the one troupe that had the most fantastical costumes.  They get my award for most original costume but I am at a complete loss of words to describe them so I'll just leave the pictures to speak for themselves. :-)










It was so hot that some of the performers were wiping sweat of their brow.  There were also people handing out bottles of cold water and juice packets to the parade performers.  I suspect they are part of the groups.


A few people even handed out slices of oranges.  This little boy was so adorable in his oversized boots that were embellished with large bells.














I end this posting with my favorite character from the parade.  In my wildest dreams, I could never come up with such a costume so I give them props for creativity and originality.  I don't know if it was a man or a woman under all this garb but he/she kindly stopped and posed for a photo.


The parade went on for about an hour.  After that, we retreated back to the cool of our room til it was time to head back out for dinner.  It was another lazy afternoon which was fine with me.  Tomorrow is (sadly) our last day in Atacama and we have a full day of sightseeing which I am very much looking forward to.

After dinner, I finally got my treat of ice cream.  There is a small ice cream shop, located not even a minute's walk from our hostal, advertising homemade ice cream in artisinal flavors.  We had checked out the place a few days ago but tonight was finally the night to indulge in a cone.  There were some very unique and exotic flavors.  I skipped over the ones that I recognized e.g., lucuma  and instead c   chose Ayrampo mainly because I like red colored fruits.  According to the posted sign, ayrampo is a cactus fruit i.e., tuna.  Sugared up, tuna tastes like a red berry fruit so that's what ayrampo tasted like - like raspberry.  I enjoyed it and it gave me the idea to use tuna fruit to make ice cream at home. 


It was a nice night so I sat outside our room and licked my cone.  Life is good.

Goodnight from San Pedro de Atacama!